As the Federal Communication Commission begins a fresh review of its Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) rules, one Ohio broadcaster is suggesting some moves to help small operators. V-Teck Communications President Lou Vito is proposing the FCC scrap the current exemption that says EEO rules only apply to radio and TV stations with five or more full-time employees. Instead, Vito wants the agency to look at the entire broadcast company—not the individual station staffing level. He proposes if the company has 50 or more employees across all of its stations then it would qualify for the exemption. As part of the proposal, he says the FCC would need to come up with a “pragmatic and sensible definition” for what qualifies as an employment unit that includes all employees in a broadcast station entity.
“The burden of bringing diversity to our industry in ways that work is proposed to be placed upon larger broadcasters with the resources, rather than foisted upon smaller entities for whom just finding employees is a challenge,” Vito wrote in a petition filed with the FCC this week. He said that each of his ideas is intertwined with the others and urged the Commission not to adopt any one of them without the others. “Each of the proposals is mutually-complementary—the adoption of one without the others will be unfair to smaller broadcasters,” he told the FCC.
V-Teck Communications owns three radio brands in the Bellefontaine, OH area including AC “Mix 98.3” WPKO-FM, country/sports “106.9 The Bull” WBLL/ W295C1 (1390/106.9), and “107.3 The Drive” using the HD2 channel of WPKO-FM and the Bellefontaine, OH-licensed translator W297BP at 107.3 FM. The public file shows both WPKO-FM and WBLL have more than five employees on their own, meaning both stations are currently required to file reports with the FCC.
“For many years, small broadcasters have complained about the EEO rules, not for their laudable goals, but rather because of the required burdensome paperwork and nonproductive actions required,” Vito said. He told the FCC that his proposal envisions a “a re-allotment” of the EEO paperwork and burdens to larger companies with more resources. “In return increasing the job availability information available from smaller broadcasters that often serve as entry-points into the broadcasting industry,” he proposes.
The Commission’s EEO rules turned 50 last month and to mark the anniversary the FCC launched a rulemaking proceeding (MB Docket No. 19-177) that will examine whether the EEO rules are in need of revision. As Inside Radio reported, much of the focus of the latest review is on the agency’s track record for enforcing its rules and asks whether the FCC should make improvements to the compliance and policing process.
One focus seems to be on the audit program that includes the random selection of 5% of radio stations each year to examine whether they are doing all that’s expected of broadcasters. Several public interest groups have suggested the FCC examine whether the agency is collecting sufficient information to verify that hiring decisions are made after a job is posted, and not before. They also think the audits need to gather additional information to ensure that they uncover discrimination at the points of recruitment, interviewing, and candidate selection.
The deadline for filing comments in the proceeding will be set in the coming weeks once the NPRM is published in the Federal Register.