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FCC Considering Bringing Back Diversity Reporting

FCC seal
(Image credit: FCC)

WASHINGTON—The FCC has filed a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and is asking for public comment on whether it should resume collection of information on the race and gender of people employed by broadcasters on the FCC Form 395-B. 

The FCC has collected data on the ethnic and gender diversity of broadcasters for many years until filing of the form was suspended in 2001 in the wake of a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit vacating certain aspects of the Commission’s Equal Employment Opportunity requirements, the FCC noted. 

“Today we restart the effort to collect data from broadcasters about the race and gender composition of their workforce,” noted Federal Communications Commission acting chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel in a statement accompanying the notice. “This data is vitally important to assess the industry’s workforce diversity.  Moreover, its collection is required under the law.”

“For decades, and later pursuant to Section 334 of the Communications Act, the Federal Communications Commission amassed this data to support its Equal Employment Opportunity obligations and address workforce discrimination,” she added. “This effort was the byproduct of a hard-fought history, informed by civil rights struggles, the work of the Kerner Commission, and the recognition that what we hear and see on the screen plays a special role in defining who we are as communities and as a Nation. But during the last two decades the agency has done too little to honor this history. The FCC paused collection of this data in 2001, in response to a court decision raising due process concerns about how it might be used.”

“I know we can do better than this,” she continued. “In fact, this rulemaking was the very first Media Bureau initiative I shared with my colleagues after taking the reins as Acting Chairwoman.  I am proud that the questions we ask here are the first full-fledged effort to address this issue in more than a decade and a half. I look forward to the record that develops and the day—hopefully soon—when we can address this outstanding element of our Equal Employment Opportunity policies.”

In a separate statement, Commissioner Geoffrey Starks supported the effort to revisit the issue. “Diversity matters,” he noted. “This is particularly clear in the media space, where representation is not abstract or theoretical—how we receive and process information is deeply intertwined with what we see and hear, and who delivers the message. Broadcasters tell our story to America, and so it is imperative that they represent all of America. Who sits in front of the camera; who decides what is newsworthy; and who decides what talent is hired and promoted—all of these are mission critical factors that go on behind the public’s view.”

Citing several examples of sexual or racial harassment, he also noted that  “harmful reverberations from such practices can be felt not only by employees directly, but also more broadly by members of the public when they are subjected to content that lacks balance, fairness, or accuracy…..Without a reliable window into the Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) practices of broadcasters, we may never be able to fully understand the scope of the issue, least of all address it. Diversity in the media is critical to ensuring that all stories are told and all communities are well-served.”  

The Further Notice of Rulemaking and the statements can be accessed here

George Winslow

George Winslow is the senior content producer for TV Tech. He has written about the television, media and technology industries for nearly 30 years for such publications as Broadcasting & Cable, Multichannel News and TV Tech. Over the years, he has edited a number of magazines, including Multichannel News International and World Screen, and moderated panels at such major industry events as NAB and MIP TV. He has published two books and dozens of encyclopedia articles on such subjects as the media, New York City history and economics.