Who Says You Can’t Go Home?

This past weekend I had the pleasure of speaking at the Alabama Broadcasters Association’s annual convention.  And, while all of my speaking engagements are important, this one held a special place in my heart because of my history with the organization.  It was part learning, part instructional on my part and part homecoming.

As some of my readers may know, my father is a broadcaster.  Attending the convention each year was as much a part of Duffie family tradition as turkey is at Thanksgiving.  Each year I would look forward to meeting up with the other families who understood the unique family lifestyle, dynamics and the demands of the media profession.

It had been several years since time had afforded me the opportunity to meet up with my media friends from Alabama.  Several months prior Sharon Tinsley, the Executive Director of the Alabama Broadcasters Association, requested that I come to talk about employment law issues and specifically those issues special to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) licensees.  The FCC is my second favorite topic after copyright and trademark law, and I quickly accepted the opportunity! Plus, the chance to meet up with media lovers from my home state also held a great deal of appeal.

The FCC requires of broadcast licensees a heightened level of care and diligence when it comes to employment practices.  This genesis of these heightened regulations are due to the fact that leadership positions in broadcasting historically went to Caucasian males.  Because of the difficulty with breaking into the broadcasting industry, the FCC thought it was important to implement extra efforts as a way to ensure even greater equal employment opportunities.

Like all good radio countdown shows, below are the Top Five guidelines I covered with attendees of the annual convention.  It should be noted that these guidelines set by the FCC do not apply to all broadcasters, but only those employing five (5) or more full-time employees.  The rules do apply to most.

  1. For every full-time position that becomes open it is necessary to widely recruit for the position to a variety of sources.  Those sources should not only be internet based, but also include non-internet based sources like minority groups, colleges, and/or trade associations like your state broadcasting association.  The FCC has held that merely posting the job announcement on the station’s website is insufficient.  For a more detailed article about the variety of sources visit the blog post by the law firm of Fletcher, Heald & Hildreth titled EEO: Web-only, Word-of-Mouth Only Recruitment NOT Enough. Attorney Scott Johnson with the firm was also one of the speakers at the Alabama Broadcasters Convention and gave an extremely informative update to attendees about the legal landscape that broadcasters should watch.
  2. Broadcasters should implement a program to inform current employees about its equal employment policy and the station’s policy on excluding unlawful discrimination.
  3. Documentation is important.  Stations should strive to document and make record keeping a part of their station’s daily practices.  This includes collecting resumes, showing why a person was chosen for a position or promotion, detailing what qualities were sought out and what qualities each applicant possessed.  If the person is a current employee make sure that personnel records are kept in an efficient and organized manner. The more details the better!
  4. Discrimination can take many forms.  Discrimination is not just based on sex/gender any longer.  Broadcasters need to be vigilant about recognizing when discrimination might be taking place in the workplace.  Finally, due to social media and the decline in boundaries from workplace to home, discriminatory activities that take place outside of working hours or something that should also be addressed.
  5. Analyze! Periodically broadcasters should analyze their equal employment opportunity program.  Is it working?  Are the sources you are using to recruit producing applicants?  How can your program be improved upon?  Taking steps to continually better a station’s equal employment opportunity program will go a long way in showing compliance with these FCC regulations

If you would like more details or information about the FCC requirements be sure to visit the FCC’s EEO Rules Portal on the FCC’s website.  I encourage you all to take part in your statewide broadcasters association.  While I happen to be partial to Alabama’s, they all take great steps to serve the broadcasters and to inform the public of important issues.  What steps has your broadcast organization taken to further a diverse workforce?  Share your tips in the comments below.

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