FCC drops minority filing rule

B'casters reports not required for first time since '70

WASHINGTON — Citing its recent setbacks in federal court here, the FCC announced Tuesday that it would not require broadcasters to file papers demonstrating what they were doing to comply with the agency’s minority hiring rules.

It will be the first time since 1970 that every TV and radio station has not been required to file the Equal Employment Opportunity reports. However, for many stations, the FCC’s decision is a moot point. The official deadline for filing the reports is today and more than half of the nation’s 12,000 radio stations and 1,500 TV stations have already sent their reports in to the FCC.

The FCC is waiting to hear if the Justice Dept. will appeal to the Supreme Court a lower court ruling that gutted the agency’s minority-hiring rules. Meanwhile, the FCC is also busy rewriting its rules to bring them in line with the court ruling.

Despite the court rulings, broadcasters have promised to uphold the spirit of the minority hiring rules. FCC chairman William Kennard, in announcing the decision to suspend the filing requirement, praised broadcasters for their promise to uphold the agency’s goals despite the court ruling. “I am heartened by the fact that many broadcasters have voluntarily agreed to comply with the commission’s EEO rules in the interim and I strongly encourage broadcasters to continue to file EEO data so that interested parties can monitor industry trends.”

Kennard has had a rocky tenure during his first 10 months as the agency topper, but advancing the role of minorities in broadcasting has become his hallmark issue. For Kennard the legal setbacks in the area of minority hiring have been particularly painful.

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