Yesterday, in our article about the recent FCC random audit of the EEO performance of over 200 radio and TV stations, we noted that the FCC also reviews the EEO performance of broadcasters in connection with complaints, license renewal applications, and at the midpoint of the license period of most TV stations and larger radio operations. The FCC’s Enforcement Bureau, in a Public Notice released yesterday, reminded us that this Mid-Term Review process is about to begin. The FCC will be reviewing the performance of larger radio clusters in Maryland, DC, Virginia, and West Virginia, who are required to upload their Annual EEO Public Inspection File reports to their online public file by June 1. While it is sometimes hard to believe how quickly time has passed, stations in these states are now at the mid-point of their licenses, as their last license renewal applications were filed on or before June 1, 2019.
The FCC’s Mid-Term EEO review in the past was conducted through the filing of a Form 397 Report. That report required that a licensee attach the last two years of EEO Public Inspection file reports and provide a contact person for EEO compliance at the station “employment unit” (a cluster of commonly controlled stations serving the same geographic area sharing at least one employee). In 2019, the FCC did away with that report, finding that the employment reports were already available in station online public inspection files (and that the person responsible for EEO was already identified in the materials submitted with the station’s last renewal application)(see our article here). So instead of filing a form, the FCC will simply review what is already in the public file. But the Mid-Term review is only required for larger radio groups, which required the FCC to implement a settings update in their online public files.
Specifically, because the Mid-Term Report is only necessary for radio station employment units with 11 or more full-time employees, the FCC had to identify which stations are part of such units. To do so, the FCC has added a “Yes/No” checkbox to the settings section in each station’s online public file’s EEO folder, in a tab called “Mid-Term Review,” where radio stations that are obligated to file annual public file reports (i.e., any station that is part of an employment unit with 5 or more full-time employees) need to let the FCC know if the is part of an employment unit that has 11 of more full-time employees, in which case the station selects “YES,” or if the station is part of any employment unit with between 5 and 10 full-time employees, in which case the station selects “NO.” The FCC has indicated that it will not conduct mid-term reviews of radio stations that select “NO.”
In contrast, the law requiring Mid-Term Reviews mandates that all TV stations with 5 or more full-time employees must be reviewed, so the Yes/No checkbox is not required for TV. All TV stations that are required to complete an annual public file report (those with 5 or more full-time employees) are subject to the Mid-Term Review. TV stations, whose renewal cycle is one year later than that for radio, will be subject to Mid-Term Reviews beginning in June 2024.
So be prepared for more EEO review coming your way if you are at a TV station or part of a larger radio cluster. Review our summaries of the FCC requirements, and consult your own advisors for more information about compliance with all FCC obligations.