EEO Compliance/Diversity

Here are some of the regulatory developments of significance to broadcasters from this past week, with links to where you can go to find more information as to how these actions may affect your operations.

For the first time since October, we can say that the federal government is funded for the rest of the fiscal year (through the end of September) so we do not expect to have to report on any threats of a government shutdown for many months. With that worry off our plate, we can look at the dates that broadcasters do need to pay attention to in the month of April.

First, we’ll look at the most significant routine filing deadlines coming up in April.  April 1 is the deadline for radio and television station employment units in Delaware, Indiana, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Texas with five or more full-time employees to upload their Annual EEO Public File Report to their stations’ online public inspection files.  A station employment unit is a station or cluster of commonly controlled stations serving the same general geographic area having at least one common employee.  For employment units with five or more full-time employees, the annual report covers hiring and employment outreach activities for the prior year.  A link to the uploaded report must also be included on the home page of each station’s website, if the station has a website.  Be timely getting these reports into your public file, as even a single late report can lead to FCC fines (see our article here about a recent $26,000 fine for a single late EEO report).

The filing of the Annual EEO Public File Reports for radio station employment units in Indiana, Kentucky, and Tennessee with eleven or more full-time employees triggers a Mid-Term EEO Review, where the FCC will analyze the last two Annual Reports for compliance with FCC requirements.  There is no form to file to initiate this review but, when radio stations located in those states with five or more full-time employees are required to upload to their public file their annual EEO Public File Report, they must also indicate in the online public file whether their employment unit has eleven or more full-time employees, using a checkbox now included in the public file’s EEO folder.  This allows the FCC to determine which station groups need a Mid-Term Review.  See our articles here and here on Mid-Term EEO Review reporting requirements for radio stations.Continue Reading April Regulatory Dates for Broadcasters – EEO Reports, Quarterly Issues/Programs Lists, LUC Windows, Rulemaking Comments, and More

The FCC last week released its first EEO audit notice for 2024.  The FCC’s Public Notice, audit letter, and the list of stations selected for audit is available here.  Those stations, and the station employment units (commonly owned or controlled stations serving the same area sharing at least one employee) with which they are associated, must provide to the FCC (by uploading the information to their online public inspection file) their last two years of EEO Annual Public File reports, as well as backing data to show that the station in fact did everything that was required under the FCC rules.  The response to this audit is due to be uploaded to the public file of affected stations by May 6, 2024. The audit notice says that stations audited in 2022 or 2023, or whose license renewals were filed after February 1, 2022, can ask the FCC for further instructions, possibly exempting them from the audit because of the recent FCC review of their performance. 

With the release of this audit, and last year’s $25,000 fine proposed for some Kansas radio stations that had not fully met their EEO obligations (see our article here), it is important to review your EEO compliance even if your stations are not subject to this audit.  The FCC has promised to randomly audit approximately 5% of all broadcast stations each year. 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 with an internet connection anywhere, at any time.  The Kansas fine, plus a recent $26,000 fine imposed on Cumulus Media for a late upload of a single EEO Annual Public File Report (see our article here), and the FCC’s recent decision to bring back EEO Form 395 reporting on the race and gender of all station employees (see our article here), shows how seriously the FCC takes EEO obligations.Continue Reading FCC Issues First EEO Audit Notice for 2024 – 250 Radio and TV Stations To Have Employment Activities for the Last Two Years Reviewed

  • The FCC issued a Notice of Apparent Liability proposing to fine Nexstar Media Group,
  • 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.

    • Congress passed, and the President signed, a continuing resolution to extend funding for the Federal government, including the FCC, averting

    When you have been representing broadcasters in Washington for as long as I have, you see cycles in regulation of the industry.  I was reminded of how long the FCC has been on a deregulatory cycle in reading today’s Washington Post obituary of former Democratic FCC Chair Charlie Ferris, who headed the FCC many decades ago when I interned there and when I later started to work in private practice representing broadcasters.  One line in the Post article in particular stood out – where Ferris was said to have “argued that unless regulations were ‘improving the market,’ they ‘were nothing but a nuisance.’”  Since the administration of Chairman Ferris, the FCC has generally moved forward to implement that philosophy of eliminating unnecessary regulation, with only occasional consideration given to the reinstatement of certain regulations (efforts that were often unsuccessful).  With the spate of recent rulings from the FCC, one questions whether the direction that Chairman Ferris pointed the FCC is now being slowed or reversed at a time when the market may well be crying out for an increase in the speed of that deregulation.

    The obituary itself quoted one media observer as suggesting that the deregulatory direction in which Ferris took the FCC might not have been entirely successful, based on a persistent lack of minority ownership of broadcast properties, and “’a shortage of local, professional, accountable reporting’ in many communities.”  But are those failings ones that are attributable to the deregulatory trends of the FCC, or greater marketplace forces that have strained not just broadcasting but all traditional media?  In reading the media headlines in the last few weeks, one can’t help but conclude that the latter is more likely the cause, and that another quote from Chairman Ferris cited in the article has never been more appropriate, as he warned broadcasters: “If you cannot compete with new technologies, you will be overcome by them.”  As we’ve argued in this blog before (see for instance our article here reflecting on the warnings of another former Chairman, Ajit Pai), given the slew of new technologies available to consumers, imposing new rules on a broadcast industry flooded with new competition for audience and revenues simply does not make sense.Continue Reading Just Because the FCC Can Regulate Broadcasting, Should It? 

    On February 22, the FCC released an Order reinstating the requirement for radio and television broadcasters, commercial and noncommercial, to annually file an FCC Form 395-B.  All station employment groups with 5 or more full-time employees would need to classify all station employees, both full-time and part-time, by race or ethnicity and gender, as well as by the type of job they perform at the station (see the most current version of the form here).  The form, which will be amended to allow employees to be classified as “non-binary” as well as male and female, will likely need approval of the Office of Management and Budget under the Paperwork Reduction Act before broadcasters will be required to comply.  The Form would be filed by September 30 of each year after the effective date, reporting on the employment profile of the station in a pay period in July, August, or September (the same pay period to be used each year).

    The Form is not new, though its use has been on hold for over 20 years.  A version of this form had been used by the FCC in the 1980s and 1990s, but its use was put on hold in 1998 as the result of court decisions finding unconstitutional the FCC’s use of this information to impose additional regulatory burdens on broadcasters whose employment profile did not reflect the demographics of its service area.  The court’s concern was that these additional regulatory actions forced broadcasters to make hiring decisions based on race or gender, a form of prohibited discrimination. Continue Reading Reinstating FCC Form 395-B Reporting on the Race and Gender of Broadcast Employees – What the Action Means for Broadcasters

    Here are some of the regulatory developments of significance to broadcasters from this past week, with links to where you can go to find more information as to how these actions may affect your operations.

    • The FCC adopted an Order that will reinstate FCC Form 395-B, which requires broadcasters to annually report their employees’ race

    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.

    President Biden’s signing of the Continuing Resolution last week (see our discussion here) has kept the federal government open, with the FCC and FTC having money to stay open through March 8.  So the FCC will be open and thus there are February regulatory dates to which broadcasters should be paying attention. 

    February 1 is the deadline for radio and television station employment units in Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, and Oklahoma with five or more full-time employees to upload their Annual EEO Public File Report to their stations’ online public inspection files (OPIFs).  A station employment unit is a station or cluster of commonly controlled stations serving the same general geographic area having at least one common employee.  For employment units with five or more full-time employees, the annual report covers hiring and employment outreach activities for the prior year.  A link to the uploaded report must also be included on the home page of each station’s website, if the station has a website.  Be timely getting these reports into your public file, as even a single late report can lead to FCC fines (see our article here about a recent $26,000 fine for a single late EEO report).Continue Reading February Regulatory Dates for Broadcasters – Annual EEO Public File Reports, C-Band Transition Reimbursement, Political Windows, and More