July 3 marked the 50th anniversary of the Federal Communications Commission’s move to ban race and gender discrimination in broadcast employment.
According to a press release from the FCC, Chairman Ajit Pai has shared a proposal to “improve the commission’s enforcement of its equal employment opportunity rules” in honor of the occasion. In it, Pai follows the recommendation made earlier this year by civil rights organizations: have the Enforcement Bureau handle the enforcement of the EEO rules, rather than the Media Bureau, in order to give the rules more teeth.
“The EEO audit and enforcement team does essential work overseeing the EEO compliance of television and radio broadcast licensees, as well as multichannel video programming distributors and satellite radio providers. The team’s work is primarily focused on periodic random audits of broadcast licensee and MVPD EEO programs, along with any necessary enforcement actions arising from those audits. The EEO team also investigates complaints and takes enforcement action based on those investigations when necessary.”
In the announcement, Pai said the change would “strengthen our commitment to fighting discrimination.” He also cited past steps taken to enhance diversity in the communications industry during his tenure: such as “re-establishing the Diversity Advisory Committee and committing to establish an incubator program to promote diversity in the broadcast industry.”
The Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council also noted the anniversary with their own suggestions for how the commission could “take a leadership role the way it did in 1968 when it began to desegregate the broadcasting industry.” The MMTC suggests the following:
- Rethink positions on Inmate Calling, Lifeline and Katrina Multilingual Emergency Broadcasting
- Ensure that lower-income, multicultural, and rural neighborhoods get equal access to broadband. The FCC can also use its expertise with its EEO rules to guide the tech industries.
- The FCC can strengthen its EEO authority by moving EEO enforcement from its Media Bureau to the Enforcement Bureau (as Pai has proposed).
- Establish new policies, and revitalize dormant policies, that promote diverse ownership of media, infrastructure, and the dissemination of spectrum licenses.
- Promote supplier diversity and ensure a skilled 21st century workforce through initiatives such as apprenticeships.
The MMTC summarized these suggestions by writing “A good start would be for the FCC to evaluate each of its actions through the lens of compassion, equality, and equal opportunity in the industries it regulates.”
The MMTC also pointed out the commission’s EEO rules helped smooth the way for Pai to become the first Indian-American FCC chairman, as well as for Mignon Clyburn to become the first woman interim chair and first African-American woman commissioner of the FCC.
“The FCC’s 1968 decision was laudable and game-changing; but 50 years later, there remains much to do,” the nonprofit concluded.