Academic journal article Harvard Journal of Hispanic Policy

Toward an Empirical Analysis of Hate Speech on Commercial Talk Radio

Academic journal article Harvard Journal of Hispanic Policy

Toward an Empirical Analysis of Hate Speech on Commercial Talk Radio

Article excerpt


The considerable and often heated debate over hate speech has produced numerous reports, articles, and books. These studies have looked at the issue from a number of disciplinary perspectives, including those of journalism, law, linguistics, economics, history, and philosophy (Butler 1997; Cortese 2006; Dharmapala and McAdams 2003; Kellow and Steeves 1998; Lendman 2006; Lewis 2007; Meddaugh and Kay 2009; Neiwert 2009; O'Connor 2008; Slagle 2009; Tolmach Lakoff 2001). These studies offer valuable theoretical, conceptual, interpretive, and descriptive insights into hate speech, but they often rest upon unsubstantiated empirical premises about the phenomenon itself. To date, there is limited research on hate speech using scientific approaches to medium, content, and impact. (i) The main goal of this pilot study is to develop a sound, replicable methodology for qualitative content analysis that can be used to examine hate speech that targets vulnerable groups, including ethnic, racial, religious, and/or sexual minorities, in commercial broadcasting. This pilot study establishes data-driven descriptive categories for such speech and creates a preliminary baseline or reference point for future research.

The backdrop for this study is the 1993 National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) Report to Congress, which addressed the role of telecommunications in the commission of hate crimes. The NTIA advises the president on telecommunications and information policy and manages the federal government's use of the radio frequency spectrum. Mindful of First Amendment protections as well as related federal legislation and policy, the 1993 NTIA report established a definition of hate speech drawn from the Hate Crimes Statistics Act of 1990. Now, two decades later, the NTIA report continues to provide a viable definition for hate speech, but it no longer reflects significant recent changes in federal policy, telecommunications platforms, and programming formats and content. Furthermore, the original study relied on data that was, by the NTIAs own account, "scattered and largely anecdotal," and it therefore failed to provide a scientific basis for data assessment, let alone a methodology or baseline for future study.

In developing this pilot study, we considered areas in which we expected to see significant results so as to establish and test data-driven descriptive categories. Future full-scale analysis would need to include a comparative dimension.

Commercial talk radio is the focus of this pilot study. Radio has the greatest penetration of any media outlet (print, broadcast, or digital), reaching 90 percent of Americans each week, and the news-talk format is the predominant radio format in terms of dedicated stations nationwide (more than 1,700) and the second most popular format in terms of audience share (12.1 percent; country music is 13.3 percent) (Houston Santhanam 2012). We examined commercial radio talk programs reaching audiences in Los Angeles County because it is the most populous county in the United States and because Latinos made up nearly half--48 percent--of the county's population in 2011 (U.S. Census Bureau 2011).

As the fastest-growing and largest minority group in the United States, Latinos represented 16.7 percent of the U.S. population, or about 51.9 million people, in 2011 (U.S. Census Bureau 2011). Noncitizens make up 44 percent of the adult Latino population, of which 55 percent is undocumented (Pew Hispanic Center 2007). Nation ally, hate crimes against Latinos, when compared with hate crimes against other racial/ethnic groups, have risen by the highest rate, with a 25 percent increase between 2004 and 2008 (Federal Bureau of Investigation 2004; Federal Bureau of Investigation 2008). This increase may be linked to the media-generated negative discourse against immigrants that has been prevalent on the airwaves. In a 2007 national survey, about 64 percent of U. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.