NAB objects to FCC employment data practices

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The National Association of Broadcasters has objected to an FCC plan to start making data on individual TV and radio stations’ workforces public.

While the NAB says it does not oppose the FCC reinstating the collection of demographic information about employees using Form 395-B, it does take issue with how that data will be broken down. 

The FCC has said it intended to break down data to the station level.

The NAB argues the rule could violate rules around free speech protected by the First Amendment and the equal protection clause in the Fifth Amendment. 

Prior to suspending use of the form, the FCC had hoped the data collected could be compiled and used for showcasing and tracking diversity within the broadcast industry. 

The form, which is part of equal employment opportunity efforts, requires stations to break down their employee rolls by race or national origin and gender and then, further, by broad job categories.

One of the NAB’s comments over the form concerns that the requirement that the data, broken down by station, be publicly available could pressure stations to engage in preferential hiring practices. 

The FCC, which was reviewing the form’s use and began requiring its use again June 3, 2024, also updated the form to allow employees to be classified as non-binary.

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This raises the NAB’s second major concern — that published data could be used to identify employees identifying as non-binary and subject them to harassment. 

For its part, the FCC has stated that it has a regulatory duty to uphold EEO practices at TV and radio stations, a position the NAB disputes, noting that, in its view, the U.S. Congress has only granted the agency the ability to adopt and administer such rules. NAB attorneys also argue that Congress has not authorized the FCC to regulate TV and radio stations in the same way. 

The NAB writes that disclosure of the data, which it says concerns a “controversial topic,” has no relevant purpose, meaning it could be in violation of free speech rules.

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