Catholic radio stations push back on new race and gender reporting rules 

Christian radio Credit: Shutterstock

A trio of Catholic radio networks has filed a petition against the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) over new requirements that will soon mandate that all U.S. radio and television stations publish information about the race and gender of their employees.

In a 3-2 ruling in February, the commissioners of the FCC reinstated a requirement that radio stations must annually file a document, known as Form 395-B, that lists the race and gender of their employees.

The FCC governs radio stations transmitting on AM or FM frequencies, satellite radio and TV stations, cable networks, and broadcast TV stations. These entities are required to maintain a summary of publicly accessible information known as a public file, with varying requirements among the types of stations regarding what must be contained in the file.

The FCC had not required Form 395-B since 2004, following a 2001 ruling by the ​​U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

In an April 29 complaint filed with the FCC and shared with CNA, three Catholic broadcasters — Ave Maria Radio, Armor of God Catholic Radio, and La Promesa Foundation — argued that the new regulations would “adversely affect them as well as all religious broadcasters generally.” 

La Promesa Foundation operates Guadalupe Radio Network, a major EWTN affiliate, as are Ave Maria Radio and Armor of God Catholic Radio. (EWTN also owns Catholic News Agency.)

The FCC in its February ruling introduced a mandate that stations must make the 395-B forms public, because “doing so will ensure maximum accuracy of the submitted data, is consistent with Congress’ goal to maximize the utility of the data an agency collects for the benefit of the public, allows us to produce the most useful reports possible for the benefit of Congress and the public, and allows for third-party testing of the accuracy of our data analyses.”

“Collection, analysis, and availability of this information will support greater understanding of this important industry,” the FCC ruling says. 

In their joint complaint, the radio stations argue that the new rule “would advance the interests of the LGBTQ lobby and would chill the religious freedoms … enshrined in the First Amendment of the federal Constitution.”

Mike Jones, vice president and general manager at Ave Maria Radio, called the FCC’s action “pernicious” and said that their attorney offered to file a complaint with the FCC on their behalf and on behalf of the other stations. 

Jones told CNA that he foresees activists opposed to the stations’ Catholic mission weaponizing the public gender and race data, and also reiterated that the radio stations believe the FCC’s actions to be unconstitutional.

“I don’t think [the FCC] is going to win,” he added. 

The radio stations’ complaint also argues that the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to soon rule on two cases that could limit the FCC’s ability to make decisions, giving that power instead to Congress. 

“The United States Supreme Court will soon release opinions in the cases of Loper Bright Enterprises v. Raimondo (No. 22-451) and Relentless, Inc. v. Department of Commerce (No. 22-1219), which were argued on Jan. 17, 2024,” the complaint says. 

“If the court sides with the appellants, there is a substantial likelihood that the opinions will limit the ability of the FCC to legislate and will recognize the primacy of Congress in this area pursuant to Article I, Section 1.”

Brendan Carr, the senior Republican among the five FCC commissioners, said in a statement dissenting from the ruling that he would not have opposed a new 395-B requirement if the filings remained confidential. The fact that such filings will be made public, he said, means that the FCC will soon “post a race and gender scorecard for each and every TV and radio broadcast station in the country.”

“This is no benign disclosure regime. The record makes clear that the FCC is choosing to publish these scorecards for one and only one reason: to ensure that individual businesses are targeted and pressured into making decisions based on race and gender,” Carr asserted.

More in US

Two other major Christian broadcasting groups, the National Religious Broadcasters Association and the American Family Association, have also announced lawsuits challenging the ruling.

The first 395-B filings will be due Sept. 30, the FCC says.

Our mission is the truth. Join us!

Your monthly donation will help our team continue reporting the truth, with fairness, integrity, and fidelity to Jesus Christ and his Church.