Can Broadcasters Now Exclusively Recruit Online Under FCC EEO Rules?

Posted on December 29th, 2016 by

By now, you may have overheard, read or concluded that the FCC has done away with its 13-year policy of finding exclusive online recruiting for broadcaster position vacancies insufficient to satisfy the EEO broad outreach requirement. If so, you would be wrong. But your confusion would be understandable.

Much has now been written about a petition for rulemaking recently filed at the FCC seeking relief from this antiquated FCC EEO policy, especially in light of the FCC’s complete embrace of the internet in other contexts for serving the public interest (can you say “online public file?”). When such petitions are filed, everyone gets excited about the prospect of regulatory relief, and some make presumptions that a policy or rule is no longer effective. Resist that temptation. Nothing has changed – yet. But do support the petition, because we are probably still a long way off from seeing a meaningful relaxation from the current policy.

Here’s how the process works. Folks file petitions for rulemaking at the FCC all the time. The FCC is not bound to taken any action on those petitions. But if they do, the normal first step is to publish a notice seeking comment on the proposed rule revision. That’s what the FCC has done here, in what is perhaps an agency acknowledgment that it is time to review this policy (ok, that might be wishful thinking, but it was worth suggesting). We encourage you to read the petition and the FCC’s public notice, and then file comments by the January 30, 2017 deadline in support of the relief requested. If the FCC hears from enough commenters, or if they believe that the comments filed have merit, the normal administrative next step is to issue their own Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, inviting a new round of comments to their tentative conclusions on how to change the policy. After that, the FCC could issue an order modifying the rule or policy. As you can see, the wheels of an administrative agency are made to move slowly.

We believe, like many of our clients, that the most effective way to recruit for broadcast vacancies is through online sources, which have the best chance of reaching a broad segment of the population accessing those sources for jobs. We also believe that the FCC could – on its own – change its policy to match with the reality of job hunting today. And we encourage the FCC to take the shorter path to regulatory relief in this instance by reviewing the comments filed in response to the petition and then issuing a decision to recognize exclusively online recruiting for broadcast vacancies as a legitimate way to achieve broad outreach. Maybe it could be part of an FCC New Year’s Resolution. Maybe.