Yesterday’s Federal Register featured the official notice of the FCC’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on its EEO rules. The NPRM, which we summarized here, is intended to look at how the FCC can make its EEO enforcement more effective – asking for comments on what parts of the current rules are good, and which should be changed. The Federal Register publication sets the dates for comments. Initial comments are due August 21, with reply comments due September 5.
Already, a coalition of smaller broadcasters has filed comments suggesting, among other things, that EEO enforcement should no longer be conducted based on local employment units, but instead the FCC’s EEO review should be conducted on a company-wide basis. The premise is that, as companies no longer are required to maintain local main studios or to locally originate programming, the employees dealing with any particular station may no longer be locally based, so that the hiring process for those stations may be conducted anywhere. The proposal also suggests that companies with fewer than 50 employees be exempt from FCC EEO enforcement as opposed to the current exemption for fewer than 5 full-time employees. Picking 50 employees as the cut-off would harmonize the FCC’s approach with the one used by the EEOC for many of its employment guidelines, and it is also the number of employees at which a company will usually have a human resources person to deal with EEO issues. In some ways this proposal would end up being more inclusive than the current rules (as it would include corporate employees not attached to specific stations, whose hiring is now not subject to FCC review), but for many small broadcasters, it would offer relief from the FCC’s EEO paperwork obligations. The coalition’s comments are the first set of comments to be filed in response to the NPRM. Broadcasters interested in offering their own ideas on EEO enforcement should file their suggestions with the FCC by the August 21 deadline for initial comments.