Homophobic, Misogynistic, And Racist Radio Programming


(By John Garziglia) A St. Louis radio personality, who calls himself the “Grim Reaper of Radio,” holds himself out on the KQQZ website as “The Kraziest Son of a Bitch you’ll ever hear on the radio….” This radio personality is alleged to routinely use the “n-word” and “various misogynistic and homophobic slurs,” according to an April 24, 2018 Radio Ink story. A Missouri state senator has called for the FCC’s revocation of the KQQZ license and a large fine. So, can the Grim Reaper’s Hot Talk radio content get the radio station’s license yanked?

Two weeks ago, members of Congress advocated for an FCC investigation based upon the licensee-scripted content of a TV broadcaster’s news coverage and the promotion of that coverage. You might have seen the triggering event – the Sinclair “must-run” script mouthed nationwide by dozens of its news personalities. The FCC’s Chairman Pai responded by reminding those members of Congress that “the Commission under my leadership [will] not act in a manner that violates the First Amendment and stifles or penalizes free speech by electronic media, directly or indirectly.”

Admittedly, a homophobic/misogynistic radio personality who routinely uses the “n-word” in his commentary is far different than a TV broadcaster who compels arguably slanted news coverage. But, the First Amendment issue raised and the political reaction are similar in both cases. The First Amendment issue is to what extent does our Constitution protect broadcasters, and in particular, a broadcaster such as the Grim Reaper who states that he “is not politically correct or politically incorrect, he’s politically insane.” The political reaction is a call upon the FCC to revoke broadcast station licenses.

An attractive but flawed First Amendment analysis is to ask if there would be a similar call for governmental action if a newspaper carried identical homophobic/misogynistic racially offensive content. Inconveniently for politicians, the publishing of a newspaper does not require a government license so that sword is removed. But, broadcasters must obtain a renewal of the license to broadcast every eight years. The breadth of First Amendment protections afforded to newspapers is something broadcasters yearn for.

The FCC in the past has taken away a broadcast license for racist programming and content. In an FCC proceeding that twice went before the Supreme Court, WLBT-TV/Jackson, Mississippi, lost its license in 1971 under the now-defunct Fairness Doctrine. The broadcaster’s support of racial segregation, and engaging in alterations to network civil rights movement news coverage, were deemed violations of the Fairness Doctrine.

So decades later when the Fairness Doctrine no longer applies, what is the red-line on political incorrectness? The politician calling for the KQQZ license revocation cited FCC policies prohibiting obscene, indecent, or profane language on the air. The FCC’s website titled “Obscenity, Indecency & Profanity – FAQ,” however, mentions nothing about either homophobic or misogynistic programming, nor any prohibitions on the use of the “n-word” in radio talk programming.

But underlying all FCC regulation is the Communications Act and its Section 307 requirement that radio stations licenses are granted to serve the “public convenience, interest, or necessity.” While the FCC’s statutory public interest standard has not previously been applied to homophobic, misogynistic, or racist programming, a future FCC chairman and commissioners could do so.

An FCC complaint can be filed at any time against a radio station. If an FCC complaint is filed on the basis of homophobic, misogynistic, or racist programming, it is quite possible that such a complaint could impact a station’s future license renewal application.

Radio stations, unlike newspapers, must have a government-issued license to broadcast. Thus, while political-incorrectness might be cutting-edge and publicity-provoking, the more incorrect the programming, the larger potential for both politicians and the community to demand of the FCC that something be done. A future FCC could determine that, in spite of the First Amendment, homophobic/misogynistic/racist programming is not in the public interest, and for that reason deny a broadcast station’s license renewal.

John Garziglia is a communications attorney at Womble Bond Dickinson and can be reached at (202) 857-4455 or [email protected]


  1. The fact that there’s even a debate on this issue and people supporting this miscreant speaks directly to the level of cancer that exists in the entertainment and broadcast industries.

  2. WLBT was a watershed moment that set a character standard for broadcasting that many believe still stands to this day. It also set a couple of other movements in motion aimed to deal with racism and other prejudices in media, such as a diversity goal. However, that was a different era. Since then, we have had the growth of UHF TV, multiplying many times over the number of TV stations, we have had the growth, and possibly dominance of MVPDs, and now streaming video appears to be on the threshold of overwhelming even that. In audio, since that time, we have had 80-90 and the growth of FM and streaming audio. So the idea that broadcast radio has a special obligation to be “fair” or evenhanded cannot survive a First Amendment analysis, and FCC leadership has said so. Yes ,they are custodians of the people’s airwaves, but that is a shaky premise upon which to base a government enforced censorship. Remember, such a regime doing what we like this time, could be a regime that stifles what we think is essential under a different “leadership.”

    Moreover, the FCC and Congress have clearly defined the limits of government censorship to be limited to obscenity and indecency. And, that is defined as relating to excretory and sexual functions, none of which cover the kind of hateful speech he uses. Otherwise, government limits on speech have been curtailed even further with the revocation of the political editorials, personal attacks corollaries.

    So, what we are left with is consumer reaction. Consumer and advertiser boycotts seem to have worked is some cases, for example with Laura Ingraham ridiculed a Parkland teen survivor. As much as we may disapprove of a homophobic/misogynistic radio personality, it’s really up to the audience and the licensee to censor this guy. The FCC has it right, and with this Commission at least, it’s unlikely that the licensee will lose its license.

  3. Too much hate, too much violence. Don’t be one who pours gas on the fire. Heard an old song today from around 1970 Timmy Thomas “Why Can’t We live Together”. Definitely a song for the times.

  4. From here:
    Similar to the remarks of “Realist” and although unlikely, we, as citizens, need to look within ourselves for that which is decent, compassionate and understanding.
    Blaming an individual broadcaster is to blame that which is projecting so much of our own internal experience.
    And yes, the grotesque elections of The Flim Flam Man and his gutless, unscrupulous and sycophantic toadies are, perhaps, the most noteworthy examples of how crass, uninformed and ridiculous we can be.

  5. Maybe the “Realist” should get REAL…He’d rather support the “I didn’t have sex with that woman”
    IMPEACHED president CLITON and he wouldn’t have sex with his wife unless she paid him from that phony
    foundation of hers !
    This guy doesn’t know the meaning of DECENCY !

  6. Maybe you should listen to the latest lyrics on any rap song heard on an urban contemporary station over the past DECADE. Their is nothing this host has said that would even come close to what is aired on radio, Pandora, Spotify, or any number of apps available. If you don’t like what you hear, don’t listen. If you don’t like where you live, move.

  7. Isn’t this rich to have this discussion in a country that elected a Reality Show Con Artist largely because he used racist and misogynistic language to move people? Any hope that we are as good a people as we claim went out the window in 2016 when even 53% of white women succumbed to the charms of a p*ssy grabber. There simply isn’t enough decency in this country to overcome his indecency.

    Maybe news/talk stations should be fined for disseminating his lies.


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