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November 19, 1998


Re: Equal Employment Opportunity Rules and Policies (MM 98-xx, MM 96-16)

Throughout its history, the United States has endured and overcome a host of social and economic challenges. Founded in the spirit of indomitable independence, and guided by principles of liberty, justice and equality, our nation has been challenged throughout its history to reconcile those lofty notions with some ugly political realities. From the abolition of slavery to women's suffrage, from the civil rights movement to reparations for Japanese- Americans interred during World War II, America has usually managed to find ways to do the right thing -- although not always at the right time.

Creating opportunity irrespective of race and gender in the mass media industries has not always been as American as apple pie. For too many years, minorities and women have not found opportunity in these industries -- industries that profoundly affect our culture. On the bright side, in recent years there has been significant progress.

In 1971, only 6.8 percent of upper-level broadcast jobs were held by minorities, and 6.9 percent were held by women. Recent reports indicate that minorities now hold 18.2 percent of upper level jobs and women hold 34.9 percent. Government played a significant role in this progress. Since 1969, the FCC has had rules that require broadcasters to reach out into their communities to find qualified job applicants of all genders and colors.

After the Court of Appeals invalidated these rules earlier this year, several industry leaders stepped forward and pledged that they would continue to follow equal employment opportunity (EEO) principles regardless of whether legally required to do so. We commend those industry leaders who stepped forward. But there remains an essential role for government to play in ensuring that all industry participants will act to combat discrimination.

Why is this important? The mass media reflect our nation's culture, our ideals, and our aspirations, and is the vehicle by which the majority of Americans get the information upon which to make decisions and shape values. This is especially true for children, who spend an average of five hours each day in front of a television set. The notion that a medium so important and so influential in our society should not have the fullest participation of all segments of our society is simply unacceptable.

This issue is not just about jobs for historically underrepresented groups -- and the rules are not just important to minorities and women. No, the issue is whether we will ensure that the mass media reflect all of society for the benefit of all of society. We believe that these principles are the bedrock of our democratic system of government and our way of life as a free and inclusive society.

The new EEO rules that we propose today address the concerns of the Court of Appeals. They will ensure that those entrusted with the responsibility to serve the public interest reach into their communities and create opportunity for talented men and women of all colors. These rules are essential to enable the Commission to combat discrimination in the marketplace. A licensee who has discriminated on the basis of someone's race, ethnicity or gender cannot demonstrate the character needed to be a public trustee.

We commend our fellow Commissioners, and the FCC staff, for their hard work in crafting these proposed rules to continue the important and unfinished work of ensuring equality of opportunity in a fashion that addresses the court's concerns.