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FCC to collect and publish data on race and gender of broadcasters

The Federal Communications Commission has launched an initiative to collect data about the race, ethnicity, and gender of the employees at broadcast stations across the United States, an effort that one dissenting commissioner said would encourage discrimination.

The FCC voted 3-2 along party lines on Thursday in favor of requiring broadcasters to file a form, known as Form 395-B, that will require them to collect data about employee demographics and submit reports about them annually to the commission. The form was initially proposed in the 1990s but was suspended by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in 2001 over confidentiality concerns and remained suspended until the Biden administration. Under Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel, the FCC launched a rulemaking in 2021 to refresh the practice but lacked enough Democratic commissioners to support it. It’s the latest policy change adopted by the commission after finally gaining a majority of Democratic commissioners after Anna Gomez’s confirmation by the Senate.

“After careful consideration of the record, we reaffirm the Commission’s authority to collect this critical information and conclude that broadcasters should resume filing Form 395-B on an annual basis,” the order said.

Republican FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr compared this requirement to “posting a race & gender scorecard” and alleged that the policy change occurred due to activists wanting to see “businesses pressured into hiring people based on their race and gender.”

FCC Commissioner Nathan Simington, the other Republican at the FCC, acknowledged in his dissent that not enough minority groups work in broadcasting. However, he argued the commission should focus on finding ways to incentivize more women and minorities to join the industry rather than publishing data publicly on the matter.

While broadcasters asked the FCC to keep the data private and only to release the results in aggregate, the federal agency has decided to release the documents publicly.

Broadcast stations will now have their Form 395-Bs available to the public to “ensure maximum accuracy,” the commission said. If the data were kept confidential, a station might “intentionally or inadvertently” misrepresent the number of employees or their race and gender. The commission also intends to allow third-party testing of the agency’s analysis of the data collected. “Continuing to collect this information in a transparent manner is consistent with a broader shift towards greater openness regarding diversity, equity, and inclusion across both corporate America and government,” the order said.

The decision is likely to face a challenge in court from broadcasters, according to Inside Radio. If the order survives, broadcasters will be expected to file their first reports by September.

-Washington Examiner

 

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