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Key House Committee Advances Diversity Ownership Measure

- Separate Bill on EEO Recordkeeping Gains Support

A key Congressional committee last week approved legislation recommended by NAB creating a new diversity tax certificate program intended to grow the ranks of minority owners of Radio and TV stations. TAB pressed for the measure in one-on-one meetings with the Texas Congressional delegation in February.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee advanced the Expanding Broadcast Ownership Opportunities Act of 2019 for consideration by the full chamber. The bill would provide a tax incentive to those who sold their majority interest in a broadcast station to a minority buyer. A similar program that was in place for almost 20 years increased minority ownership in broadcast stations by more than 550 percent before it was repealed in 1995.

Return of Form 395-B?

Separate legislation also was approved by the committee that would require the FCC to reinstate Form 395-B employment reporting. The form was briefly used by the FCC until 2003 to annually collect data on the race and gender composition by job category for broadcast stations with five or more full-time employees.

The legislation, however, expressly prohibits the FCC from using employee data gathered for either Form 395-A or B in determining whether to grant, renew, or authorize the transfer of a broadcast license.

TAB led the charge against the requirement in the mid-1990’s, garnering the support of all other state broadcast associations in a court challenge that resulted in the FCC suspending use of the form.

While firmly supporting employment diversity in the industry’s ranks, broadcasters consider the concept of station owners and managers being required to skulk about their employees to surmise their race, ethnicity and gender categorization (or having to ask them outright, in violation of some states’ employment laws) is potentially fraught with legal risks without achieving the result the FCC ostensibly desires.

It’s unclear at this time whether this measure will advance to the full House for a floor vote, and TAB and NAB will continue to work with Members of Congress to explain the challenges of this approach while continuing to advocate for greater ownership diversity and help stations recruit a diverse workforce.

Questions? Contact TAB’s Oscar Rodriguez or call (512) 322-9944.

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