On Friday, the FCC issued its first EEO audit of almost 300 radio and TV stations across the country (see the model audit letter and list of stations affected here), the day after announcing its intent to abolish the Form 397 EEO Mid-Term Report (see our articles here and here). In the Order announcing the forthcoming abolition of the Mid-Term Report, the FCC also noted its intent to being a proceeding in the next 90 days to reexamine the effectiveness of its EEO program – signaling that EEO remains a priority of the FCC and that this audit should be taken very seriously. While the FCC each year promises to audit 5% of all full-power broadcast stations, and this audit is likely but the first of a number of EEO audits for the coming year, this upcoming review of the effectiveness of the FCC’s EEO process highlights the continued importance of EEO enforcement to the FCC.
The response to the audit must be completed by April 1. As the response (and the audit letter itself) must be uploaded to the public file, it can be reviewed not only by the FCC, but also by anyone else anywhere, at any time, as long as they have an internet connection. The upcoming license renewal cycle adds to the importance of this audit, as a broadcaster does not want a recent compliance issue to headline the record the FCC will be reviewing with its license renewal (see our article here about the upcoming license renewal cycle). The audit requires that the broadcaster submit their last two EEO Public File Reports (which should already be in the online public file) and backing data to support all of the outreach efforts listed on those public file reports. Broadcasters subject to the audit should carefully review the audit letter to see the details of the filing. Continue Reading