[ Text | Word97 ]

January 20, 2000

Separate Statement
Commissioner Susan Ness

Re: Equal Employment Opportunity Rules and Policies (MM Docket Nos. 98-204, 96-16)

We make clear today that discrimination based on race, ethnicity or gender is antithetical to operating a broadcast station, cable system, or other multichannel video programming distribution system in the public interest. I have always advocated equal opportunity and believe that such efforts are critical if women and minorities are to be able to seek and obtain employment, training, promotion and ownership -- in the mass media and telecommunications industries. The rules we adopt today further this important goal without affecting the ability of broadcasters, cable systems, and other programming providers to hire the most qualified people.

While I disagree with the Court's assessment in Lutheran Church that our previous rules violated Constitutional standards, I accept its ruling. I believe that the rules we adopt today respond to the letter and spirit of the Court's opinion.

Significantly, the rules afford licensees flexibility to tailor their outreach programs to the needs of the marketplace. We do not impose a one-size-fits-all regulatory regime but rather allow licensees to select from a long list of supplementary recruitment methods or, if they so choose, to devise their own outreach program. Many broadcasters, for example, have developed creative ways to reach out to minorities and women in their communities and I believe such efforts should be encouraged.

Outreach efforts should be effective, not symbolic. To this end, I do not want licensees to use token gestures in meeting our requirement to "widely disseminate" job listings. Rather, licensees should deploy a variety of methods, including postings on the Internet, advertisements in newspapers, and other notices in their effort to widely circulate information about job openings. Licensees should not rely on only one vehicle for disseminating job vacancy information to the population but should structure their efforts to maximize outreach throughout the community.

I strongly encourage broadcast associations to develop and publicize Internet-based job banks to aggregate and make available as many listings as possible. Such job banks eventually will facilitate a job search, not only in local communities but throughout any given state and, ultimately, throughout the Nation. Before such a tool can be effective, however, we must have a way of ensuring that listings are readily accessible to those who cannot afford a home computer with an Internet connection. Otherwise, our efforts to increase outreach may have the unintended consequence of reinforcing the digital divide.

Finally, I applaud the voluntary efforts by broadcasters and the cable industry to devise training programs that will enhance prospects for women and minorities to gain employment, rise to senior management posts, and position themselves for future ownership opportunities. Our EEO requirements should not represent the upper limit in this area, and voluntary efforts by employers are critical to achieving true workplace diversity.