EEO Mid-Term Reports on FCC Form 397 must be filed at the mid-point of the renewal cycle of radio stations if they are part of a station employment unit with more than 10 full-time employees, or 5 or more full-time employees for TV. A station employment unit is one or more commonly-controlled stations serving substantially the same area, and sharing at least one employee. As it has been 4 years since the first radio renewal applications were filed in the last license renewal cycle, June 1 brings the deadline for radio groups in Maryland, DC, Virginia and West Virginia that have more than 11 or more full-time (30 hours per week) employees to file their Form 397 Reports. The FCC yesterday issued a reminder to stations about this obligation.
The reminder does not address in any detail the content of the form. Essentially, the Form 397 (which can be viewed here) is like the Form 396 filed by stations in connection with their license renewal applications. After providing identifying information, the form requires that station licensees identify a person who is responsible for EEO compliance at the station, and to attach their last two EEO Public Inspection File Reports – the most recent of which will, for stations in these states, need to be placed in the public inspection file by June 1. These Public Inspection File reports can be reviewed by the FCC to assess the hiring efforts made by the broadcaster for job openings in the last two years to insure that the station’s outreach efforts to prospective new employees were sufficiently broad to attract applicants from all significant groups within the station’s service area. We wrote about the basics of the FCC’s EEO policies for broadcasters here.
Like in an EEO audit, the FCC can review these Form 397 reports for deficiencies, and potentially fine stations that have not made adequate EEO efforts. See our article here about recent FCC fines for EEO compliance issues (an article that contained a reminder about impending filing dates for Form 397).
The Public Notice does address two situations that arise in a limited number of cases – specifically (1) how do employment groups that reach across state lines into states with different EEO deadlines handle these filings, and (2) what about groups that include both radio and TV stations, which even in the same state have filing obligations that are one year apart. For the stations in the same employment unit that are licensed to communities in different states, the FCC requires that the licensee pick the deadline from one of the two states, and to stick with that election. For joint radio-TV combinations, the FCC says to use the TV filing date – one year later than the radio deadline.
Radio stations in all states should be preparing for this deadline as every two months, new stations in different states will have their turn to submit to the FCC their Form 397 reports. Be prepared for the scrutiny that this will bring to your EEO performance.