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Separate Statement
Commissioner Susan Ness

Re: Equal Employment Opportunity Rules and Policies (MM Docket No. 98-204 and MM Docket No. 96-16)

Today we propose new rules intended to ensure that women and minorities continue to have a fair chance to be considered for employment and promotion at broadcast stations, cable systems, and other multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs). I fully support this item but write separately to emphasize the following:

First, I reiterate my longstanding support for equal employment opportunity, as well as my view that voluntary efforts are critical if women and minorities are to be fully able to seek and obtain employment, training, and promotion in the mass media and telecommunications industries. Since I joined the Commission in 1994, I have vigorously advocated strong, but fair, enforcement of our rules. I also have encouraged broadcasters and cable operators voluntarily not only to hire, but also to train, qualified women and minorities for management. Ultimately, such steps will help open doors to senior management and, for some, ownership of media properties. Without such steps, we are destined to see a lack of diversity in the ownership and management of broadcast and cable enterprises.

Second, we have taken to heart the Lutheran Church decision of the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia and we are responding fully to the concerns of the court in that case. While I believe that, both as to its design and its application, the Commission's outreach rules complied with Constitutional standards, nonetheless, the Court has spoken. The new EEO proposals made today will not require licensees to measure their hiring record against labor force information and should not affect, in any way, their ability to hire the best qualified people. In response to the court's view that our comparison of the station's employment data against local workforce data led licensees "to hire with an eye toward meeting the numerical target," we have discontinued that comparison and have scrupulously sought to eliminate that potentiality from our new proposals.

Finally, our EEO rules have never been -- and should not become -- the upper limit in this area. There is ample evidence that some leading broadcasters and cable operators will, indeed, take more aggressive steps on their own to enlarge their pools of qualified applicants. I was heartened that following the Lutheran Church decision, several exemplary broadcasters publicly committed to continue, and expand upon, their recruitment and training efforts. These efforts work, as evidenced by the change in workforce makeup over the last 25 years. Inclusion of women and minorities in the operations of a broadcast station or cable system does make a positive difference -- a difference that strengthens not just the companies that they serve, but also the country at large.