Pubcasting coalition withdraws request for relief from EEO reporting

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A coalition of top public broadcast organizations formally withdrew a recommendation Friday that the FCC ease equal employment opportunity requirements for public stations.

America’s Public Television Stations, NPR, CPB and PBS recommended the review in a joint response to the commission’s request for comments on its agenda to modernize media regulations. After supporters of the EEO rules objected last week, the organizations formally withdrew it.

“Public Broadcasting has recently learned that some stakeholders are concerned that this filing represents a retreat from Public Broadcasting’s commitment to equal employment opportunities,” said the coalition in a letter Friday to the FCC retracting their EEO rule review request. “Nothing could be further from the truth,” the letter continued. “Public Broadcasting’s commitment to diversity and inclusion remains strong and unwavering.”

The FCC’s EEO rules bar discrimination in hiring and require radio and TV stations with more than five full-time employees to maintain recruitment programs. The rules also require licensees to report on their EEO efforts annually and when their broadcast licenses come up for renewal every eight years.

The FCC enforces its regulations through periodic reviews of station EEO filings and through random audits.

In joint comments filed at the commission last July, APTS, CPB, NPR and PBS urged the agency to consider easing at least some of the EEO requirements for public stations because many of them are also subject to federal, state and local employment regulation.

The FCC rule “is over-regulatory and unnecessarily burdensome, requiring stations to comply with recruitment procedures, employment initiatives, and excessively detailed record-keeping requirements; to prepare and file renewal-related, mid-term, and annual submissions; and to respond to random EEO audits,” the comments said.

“While an argument could reasonably be made that the Commission simply does not need to regulate employment practices, and therefore the rule should be eliminated altogether, Public Broadcasting recommends that the rule could be retained, but its burdens at least minimized by reducing it to a non-discrimination prohibition and a general obligation to recruit for full time job vacancies, and by reducing required EEO filings to only those that would accompany license renewal applications,” the coalition said.

In responding to the FCC’s so-called “Modernization of Media Regulation Initiative,” which aims to identify media rules to target for possible revision or elimination, the coalition also requested changes to 15 additional regulations, including rules for station identification, TV Channel 6 protections and ownership reports.

CPB requires station grantees to comply with EEO regulations enforced by the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, said CPB spokesperson Letitia King, in an email Thursday.

“The FCC also has regulations that prohibit employment discrimination by broadcast station licensees, but with different reporting and audit requirements that some stations find burdensome,” King said.  “Because equality in employment is well-regulated elsewhere at the federal level, our joint comments on the Media Regulation Modernization Initiative recommended that the FCC keep its regulations but simplify them by reducing unnecessary reporting and auditing requirements.”

David Honig, president emeritus and senior adviser to the Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council, objected to the public broadcasting proposal in an email to Current Thursday. “Given the mission of public broadcasting as an entry point for those historically excluded from commercial broadcasting, and the history of public broadcasting as an often elitist, often discriminatory preserve, these documents are appalling,” Honig said, adding that he learned of the EEO rule request last week. “They gravely disrespect the memory of the dozens of statesmen and women who gave their lives to the cause of diversity of public radio and public television.”

“Of all the things public broadcasting may need, ‘less civil rights enforcement’ is not one of them,” Honig continued.

Honig, who co-founded MMTC in 1986, has been involved in FCC EEO law and regulation since 1972. He has represented a long line of high-profile civil rights organizations, including the National Black Media Coalition, NAACP, Rainbow PUSH Coalition and the League of United Latin American Citizens.

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