The Federal Communications Commission on Wednesday launched a broad inquiry into whether it needs to improve rules designed to boost employment of minorities and women in broadcasting and cable.

The agency noted that the “overriding goal” of equal employment opportunity regulations is to “promote program diversity.”

Interested parties will be asked to comment on how the FCC can better ensure compliance with the equal employment opportunity rules.

Policy changes?

Cable operators are subject to on-site audits by FCC officials to ensure that efforts are being made to hire minorities and women. Broadcasters are not subject to audits, but rather respond by mail to the FCC questions regarding minority hiring.

The notice asks whether broadcasters should face the same on-site audits as cable operators, and whether audits of cable systems can be made more efficient.

Noting the “convergence of existing communications technologies,” the FCC asked whether it would be appropriate for the employment regs to be expanded to other multichannel video programming providers, as well as the telephone and cellular industries.

Congress has ordered the FCC to report on the effectiveness of its employment policies by October 1994.

Spectrum auction procedures

In other news, the FCC on Wednesday adopted procedures for auctioning off spectrum to companies in the interactive video and data services arena.

IVDS is a new communications service with the potential for developing two-way home shopping transactions, pay-per-view and educational programming. The FCC intends to begin auctioning spectrum this summer to two applicants in 734 markets in the U.S.

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