The Rev. Al Sharpton has amplified his calls for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to keep racist content off the airwaves in light of the Arizona shootings.
In a series of recent appearances on cable news, Sharpton has made the case for the FCC to step up its regulation of the airwaves, policing not just curse words and nudity, as it does today, but also rooting out comments that viewers might perceive as racist.
Sharpton has largely focused on conservative pundit Rush Limbaugh in what has amounted to a concerted bid to oust him from the airwaves. Sharpton has singled out Limbaugh’s comments comparing President Obama’s policies to “reparations” as potentially racist.
“We’re not telling Rush don’t say what he wants to say. Say it at home,” Sharpton said in December. “Don’t get on publicly regulated radio and television that are selectively given licenses and do that to offend someone because of their race or their gender.”
Now Sharpton appears to be increasing his demands in light of the Arizona shootings that sparked a national dialogue about the public discourse.
He appeared on MSNBC after the shootings to argue that the FCC should establish a review board and hold public hearings to decide what sort of content might not be suitable for the air.
“We are less than a week away from when we had people sitting together in the House of Representatives talking about civility, with the president [calling] for this nation in the middle of a tragedy … to be more civil,” he said.
In December, Sharpton said he had planned to meet with FCC officials on his proposals, although there are no ex parte filings to suggest that he did. His only filing appears to be a letter advocating for the Comcast-NBC Universal merger as a boon to media diversity, a position broadly panned by other minority advocates.
Despite Sharpton’s efforts, it’s unlikely the FCC has any appetite to bolster its indecency standards, let alone wade into the messy question of what constitutes racism.
Broadcast decency advocates have criticized the commission for, in their view, barely standing up for its authority to scrub nudity and curse words off the air, which has come under fire in a pair of court decisions.