|Re:||Review of the Commission's Broadcast and Cable Equal Employment Opportunity Rules and Policies and Termination of EEO Streamlining Proceeding (MM Docket Nos. 98-204 and 96-16).|
I fully support this NPRM which looks for ways to revise the equal employment opportunity rules to be consistent with the holding of the D.C. Circuit in Lutheran Church.
It is important that we make such an effort. As a nation, we must be conscious of the barriers that exist for newcomers who wish for the opportunity to be full participants in the information age. If one believes, as I do, that the Constitution is not a complete bar to expanding opportunities for minorities and women, then we should not be afraid to forge ahead in search of effective, judicially sustainable tools -- no matter how difficult it might be to navigate a successful path. I wish to say a word about the basis on which I enthusiastically endorse our present effort.
Individuals that operate broadcast facilities pursuant to a license they obtain from the government (in effect from the people of the United States), must do so in the public interest. And, it is our statutory charge to ensure that they do so. The venerable public interest standard is, to my mind, vague and expansive and too often allows for excessive government intrusion, if not outright mischief. Over the years, there has been hot debate as to what the standard should encompass. I personally have often urged the adoption of guiding or limiting principles to constrain the standard's invocation. Nonetheless, of this I am sure: If the public interest means anything at all it cannot possibly tolerate the use of a government license to discriminate against the citizens from whom the license ultimately is derived. Discrimination is an insidious legacy that has unquestionably denied certain citizens equal opportunity to savor the fruits born by this great country. No one is entitled to rewards they did not earn. No one is entitled to jobs for which they are not qualified. But, they are entitled to an equal opportunity to vie for those rewards and to compete for those jobs. This NPRM suggests doing nothing more than that.
I recognize the genuine concern and anxiety with so-called "affirmative action" programs. To many, some of these programs have had the effect of mandating racial or gender equilibrium, under the banner of "diversity," to the detriment of able members of the majority. The courts have shared that concern and acted to curtail many of these programs. Nonetheless, I affirmatively believe that the courts and the Constitution they interpret continue to abhor discrimination and sanction minimally intrusive programs designed to vigilantly guard against it. This explains the continued viability of Title VII and the Civil Rights Acts and, I believe, explains the programs we suggest today.
Equal opportunity can only be achieved if all individuals are given an equal chance to develop the skills and experiences necessary to compete effectively for those opportunities. I think this is why our society, and the courts, have often focused so heavily on ensuring that minorities and women get fair access to education. I am somewhat dubious of the strained proposition in this NPRM that minorities and women in low level positions measurably and directly advance our goal of program diversity. However, the probability of greater diversity in programming is advanced if there is a greater stable of senior executives and owners working in the field.
Our proposed EEO rules focus on increasing the possibility that more minorities and women get the skills and experiences they will need to fairly earn the rewards of the industry, and the qualifications they need to effectively compete for positions of influence. This, more than anything, will strengthen the probability of a more diverse medium. Moreover, and importantly in the eyes of the courts, I believe efforts that focus on greater opportunity for developing skills and experience is likely to dampen the need or the impulse to mandate diversity through structural means that the have proven so objectionable.