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MMTC Slams Broadcaster Arguments for Reducing EEO Reporting Obligations

The Multicultural Media, Telecom & Internet Council is taking strong issue with broadcaster arguments that the FCC's EEO enforcement regime is burdensome as it is, does not need beefing up, and may even need loosening up. MMTC didn't even even respond to cable operator's arguments, though it gave that industry some credit for progress on diversity. 

That came in reply comments to the FCC on its inquiry into its EEO enforcement framework and MMTC suggestions for beefing it up. 

State broadcaster associations (STBAs) in their comments pointed to the lack of EEO actions against broadcasters, but MMTC turned that against the arguments for less regulation.  

Related: FCC Sends MVPDs Latest Round of EEO Audit Requests 

MMTC said STBA's assertion that the FCC “has not found a single broadcaster to have engaged in discrimination since the advent of the first EEO rule in 1969" is far from a clean bill of health. 

Instead, MMTC said, it is "a damning indictment of the agency’s enforcement program." 

That is because it said it is not conceivable that the broadcasting industry with its thousands of employees is the only industry in the nation whose work force contained " no racial or gender discriminators for the past 50 years." 

Related: FCC Extends EEO Comment Deadline 

It said the fact that no one ever got prosecuted, much less found to be liable for violations, is hardly an argument for weakening "the obviously insufficient EEO compliance program in place now." 

As to cable, MMTC did respond to the comments in a footnote: "We do not agree that additional requirements are unnecessary, especially as applied toward eliminating intentional discrimination. But the NCTA’s position [about cable's demonstrated commitment to diversity] is not unreasonable, and its support for the rule is appreciated. For over 30 years, the NCTA has exercised considerable moral leadership in leading its industry into nearly full compliance." 

Under a remand by a federal court, the FCC is required to consider the impact of its policies on broadcast diversity when undertaking its upcoming quadrennial review of media ownership rules, now an even stronger mandate with the court's decision two weeks ago to vacate earlier media deregulation by the FCC under chairman Ajit Pai because the FCC failed to adequately gauge that impact, though that was primarily about diverse ownership rather than employment. 

Before that recent court smackdown, Pai had signaled he had no plans to re-institute the form 395-B data collection of the racial makeup and gender of broadcast staffs, as Democrats have pushed for, but suggested he is not alone in his issues with that form. 

It has been well over a decade since the FCC collected information from broadcasters on the gender and diversity of their staffs--stretching over Republican and Democratic administrations--a point the FCC's Democratic commissioners made back in February when the FCC voted to eliminate an EEO reporting form. 

The holdup has been whether or not to keep that info confidential, with the data collection suspended since 2004. The Dems on the commission said that should have been resolved by now and the form reinstated, before the FCC weighs in again on diversity, as Pai had signaled it will do in the Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on EEO. 

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.