Earlier this week, two broadcasting companies petitioned the FCC to revise its Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) rules to allow broadcasters to rely on Internet recruitment sources when filling job openings. The Commission’s current EEO rules, which date back to 2002, require broadcasters employing five or more full-time employees, and MVPDs employing six or more full-time employees, to maintain an EEO recruitment program, which includes outreach requirements for filling job vacancies (we have previously warned clients about the strictness of these requirements here, here, and here).

The 2002 rules cited the daily newspaper as the presumptive method of outreach, but broadcasters have frequently reported that on-air and Internet announcements are now by far the most effective recruitment methods. Nonetheless, the FCC has repeatedly held that posting openings only to internet sites does not satisfy the rules, and has imposed fines and reporting conditions based at least in part on failure to meet this requirement.

Despite the disparity between the EEO rules and licensees’ preferred recruiting practices, compliance with EEO rules has historically been important for broadcasters and MVPDs, as the FCC conducts random audits of EEO programs each year, as well as reviewing EEO compliance in the context of license renewals. While it may not signal a change in the Commission’s own perspective on the rules, the Media Bureau has at least sought comment on the broadcasters’ petition. Interested parties may file comments to MB Docket 16-410 by January 30, 2017.