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Civil rights groups, industry vet EEO plan

How demanding should federal recruiting rules be for broadcast and cable
companies? Leaders of civil-rights and women's groups don't see eye-to-eye
with broadcast executives, although both sides profess similar commitment to
helping minorities and women get into the business.

During a Federal Communications Commission hearing Monday, the Rev. Everett Parker -- who drafted the United
Church of Christ's fight for equal-employment-opportunity rules in 1967 -- added a
little historical perspective in a taped address. Without singling out specific
broadcasters, he took direct aim at their state associations, which led a court
battle against the FCC's previous rules.

Broadcasters continue to fight FCC proposals that would require stations to
keep records of the demographic makeup of their job applicants. Requiring heavy
reporting requirements would pose an "unwarranted burden" and make station
operators "a target of attack" by the government, said Ann Arnold, executive
director of the Texas Association of Broadcasters. Marilyn Kuschak, vice president of
Midwest Family Broadcasters, a four-station radio group, said her company
already has well-established programs for recruiting and complained that extra
record-keeping requirements would be an unnecessary expense.

National Urban League president Hugh Price said his years as a station
executive taught him that this is a word-of-mouth industry. Managers tend to hire
"known quantities," he said, and they are resistant to hiring through broad outreach
programs. Joan Gerberding, president of American Women in Radio &
Television, added that the "perpetual glass ceiling has had too few cracks." The
National Cable & Telecommunications Association again endorsed the FCC's
proposals -- even the collection of applicants' demographic data. The FCC is
taking its third shot at drafting EEO rules that will withstand court scrutiny.
Federal judges struck down two previous incarnations.