Back to the equal-employment drawing board for television

Dec 17, 2001  •  Post A Comment

The Federal Communications Commission last week proposed new equal employment opportunity regulations intended to encourage broadcasters and cable operators to reach out to minorities and women when filling job vacancies-hopefully all without running afoul of the courts.
Representatives of the FCC’s Republican majority made clear that they’re particularly sensitive about EEO because a federal appeals court threw out the two previous versions of the agency’s regulations on the subject. So this time around, the rules would not require owners to track job applicants by race or gender-something that previously caused the court concern.
Licensees would still have to report the race and gender of their employees to the FCC every year. But the FCC vowed to use the information only to monitor industry employment trends and to prepare reports for Congress.
The basic obligations of companies under the new rules would be to avoid discrimination and to promote job openings to “all segments of the community.”
In addition, the proposed rules would require companies to send job vacancy announcements to recruitment organizations that request them, and to use other means, such as job fairs and internship programs, to reach out to a diverse pool of potential job applicants.
The rules also would require companies to document their outreach efforts annually.
In a statement, FCC Commissioner Michael Copps, the agency’s lone Democrat, said he didn’t believe the proposed rules go far enough. “I do not feel that it reflects the deep and passionate commitment to a diverse workplace that America must have if it is to fulfill its potential,” he said. “Diversity should be America’s song. And the FCC, standing at the forefront of the great transforming forces of our generation, should be leading the choir.”
But agency Republicans expressed concern that more aggressive regulations might be overturned by the courts. FCC Chairman Michael Powell said that while he is a strong supporter of EEO regulations, he also believes the agency’s rules need to be judicially sustainable. “The constitutional provisions, which are relied upon by courts to limit our actions, are equally cherished values in the minds of Americans,” he said.
Mr. Powell said the agency might hold public hearings on the EEO proposal next year, an idea first publicly broached by Mr. Copps at last week’s meeting. The Minority Media and Telecommunications Council, which has been leading the lobbying charge for new EEO regulations, was declining comment on the FCC’s proposal last week.