Do-it-yourself EEO

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The FCC didn't need to pass new EEO rules. All they needed to do was wait for the NAACP to get around to targeting individual stations and, if recent past is prologue, the marketplace model of affirmative action would surely have kicked in. The broadcast networks were quick to fall into line after pressure from Kweisi Mfume and company, with pledges, plans of action and the hiring of senior-level diversity executives to oversee their efforts.

Now the NAACP has turned to the cable industry, and executives there are starting to talk about how much work there is still left to do. The National Cable Television Association, we hasten to add, was also pointing out how much work had already been done. Employment of all minorities in the industry stands at 31%, according to NCTA, compared with 26% for the total workforce. That does not address types of jobs or opportunities for advancement, but it is nothing to hang your head over, either.

We do not begrudge broadcasters or cable operators their powerful and effective lobbying organizations. African Americans are fortunate to have theirs. The interplay of those forces is, primarily, a marketplace dynamic. To the degree that the reigning political party is in step with one of those forces, a thumb is added on one side of that scale, but the thumbs and the sides change with the passing of the political seasons. Right now, the NAACP enjoys that extra weight. And it shows.

We like the idea of leaving the pushing to an independent advocacy group like the NAACP. And we don't like the idea of the FCC's new EEO rules, an example of intrusive and-given the NAACP's obvious clout-unnecessary government interference in TV and radio. They're also a costly paperwork burden for the many small businesses that run stations and systems. So we're rooting for the broadcasters in their federal suit to strike down the EEO rules. As we have said before, increasing the number of minorities and women on the job improves a company's status in its community and its product. Unlike the EEO rules, the current "call and response" diversity efforts are a means to a more inclusive work force and society-a means broadcasters can live with.

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