WASHINGTON — Broadcasters and cable companies would be required to recruit minorities and women to fill vacancies but wouldn't be forced to hire them under a plan offered by federal regulators Thursday.
The Federal Communications Commission, without dissent, proposed rules designed to ensure that TV, radio and cable systems cast a wide net when filling vacancies. The action was taken in response to a court decision that overturned the agency's equal employment opportunity rules.
In April, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia scuttled the FCC's 30-year-old equal employment rules for TV and radio stations, declaring them unconstitutional.
Specifically, the court said the FCC's practice of comparing a station's work force with the racial composition of its market is illegal. The court said this pressured stations into hiring minorities and had the effect of a minority hiring quota.
The new rules being proposed make clear that no consideration is to be given to race or gender in actual hiring decisions.
In other FCC action, television stations that want to use new digital-TV channels for pay-TV and other subscription services will have to pay a revenue-based fee to the government.
The FCC voted that stations will have to pay the government 5% of the gross revenue generated by the new services. The fees are designed to be equitable to potential competitors such as cable-TV operators, who didn't get free digital channels.
"We set out to do this in a way that was fair and easy to administer," FCC Chairman William Kennard said.
Broadcasters will have to pay the fee only once a year for the preceding fiscal year.
The first bills will be due Dec. 1, 1999.