Here are some of the regulatory developments of significance to broadcasters from the past week, with links to where you can go to find more information as to how these actions may affect your operations.
- On August 19, 2022, the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau issued the second set of Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) audit letters for 2022. Each year, approximately five percent of all radio and television stations are randomly selected for EEO audits. A list of the radio and television stations included in this audit as well as the text of the audit letter, setting out the requirements for the responses from the stations selected, is available here. The deadline for stations to upload their responses to their FCC-hosted online public inspection file is October 7, 2022. Note that, in contrast with past practice, the Enforcement Bureau will no longer issue letters to licensees upon completion of its review of the audit responses. If questions arise during staff review, the Enforcement Bureau will contact the licensee.
- The FCC maintains a list of “Items on Circulation” – decisions that have been drafted by the FCC staff for consideration, revision, and review by the Commissioners before those decisions are adopted. On August 18, a new item was added to the list of matters being reviewed by the Commissioners – a Report and Order and Notice of Inquiry on the Annual Regulatory Fees. As the FCC must adopt a decision soon so that fees can be paid before the start of the FCC’s new fiscal year on October 1, we can expect a quick review by the Commissioners. Broadcast interests continue to lobby for reduced broadcast fees, including a letter from 92 Congressional representatives opposing increased fees sent this week to the FCC Chair. As we wrote here, broadcasters have suggested that technology companies should pay a share of the regulatory fees as they benefit from FCC decisions. Now, only licensees pay for the cost of FCC regulation. But, given the need for immediate adoption of the fees for this year, the NAB has recognized that the extension of the obligation to pay fees may need to wait for future years. The Notice of Inquiry may well ask questions as to how such a policy could be implemented in future years consistent with the provisions of the Communications Act.
- On our Broadcast Law Blog, this week we wrote more about the $60,000 penalty imposed on an LPTV station for violations of the FCC sponsorship identification and political broadcasting rules. We mentioned that case in last week’s summary of regulatory actions. Our article this week details the legal issues raised in that case where the broadcaster sold advertising packages that included not only spots but also an interview in what was seemingly a local interest news interview program, without identifying the interview segments as having been sponsored.