It is a new year, and the FCC is starting with a new round of EEO audits. Letters to over 280 affected radio and TV stations went out late last week, and the FCC’s Public Notice of the audit, listing all of the affected stations, has just been released. The Commission has pledged to audit 5% of all broadcast stations and cable systems each year to assure their compliance with the Commission’s EEO rules – requiring wide dissemination of information about job openings and non-vacancy specific supplemental efforts to educate their communities about job opportunities in the media industry. The form audit letter was also released by the FCC and attached to the Public Notice. Responses from the audited stations are due to be filed at the FCC by March 31. Licensees should review the list of affected stations carefully to see if any of your stations are on the list. We note that this list appears to be very heavy on noncommercial licensees, so those licensees should be particularly on alert.
While the FCC, last year, slightly revised the audit letters to cut down on the burden of compliance (by eliminating the need to produce a copy of every notice sent out to fill every job, allowing instead the filing of a representative copy of a job opening notice and a list of the sources to which it was sent), these audits still require substantial work. And if any station in your cluster is on the list, all stations in that “station employment unit” (a group of commonly owned stations serving the same area with at least one common employee) must respond. But, if a cluster has been audited in the last two years, the FCC may allow you to avoid responding to this audit – but you have to request that “pass” from the FCC. If a station that is being audited is involved in an LMA with another broadcaster, the audit may also require that the broker provide employment information as well as the licensee.
All stations should review the audit letter as it provides a good outline of the documents that stations should be retaining to demonstrate their compliance with the FCC’s EEO rules. For more information about compliance with the EEO rules, see our post about an EEO webinar in which I participated, held by the FCC in early 2012 to explain its EEO rules. You may also want to review the last set of fines for EEO violations, about which we wrote here.