EEO Compliance/Diversity

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

The full Commission this week issued an Order fining Cumulus Media $26,000 for its failure to upload one EEO Annual Public File Report to its online public inspection file until about 9 months after the due date.  The unanimous decision of the five Commissioners generally upheld an EEO Notice of Apparent Liability, issued unanimously by all four FCC Commissioners about two years ago, where the Commission had proposed a $32,000 fine on the company for its failure to timely upload the annual EEO report for a cluster of five co-owned stations in a Georgia market (and the fact that a link to that report on each stations’ website was also missing for that period).  The principal change in this week’s decision was to reduce the fine that had been proposed by $6,000, reflecting the amount that the Notice of Apparent Liability had assessed for the licensee’s failure to self-assess its EEO program. Broadcasters are required to regularly assess the effectiveness of their EEO program.  The proposed fine was imposed on the theory that, if the licensee had been regularly assessing its program, it would have noted that the required report had not made it to the online public file and fixed that problem.  This week’s decision reaffirms that reasoning but reduces the fine by the amount allocated to the failure to self-assess the program, finding that Cumulus may not have had notice that reviewing public file uploads was part of the obligation to self-assess.

It is very important to note that this decision did not cite any failure by the licensee to recruit widely when it had open positions, nor any failure of the group to conduct the required EEO non-vacancy specific outreach (these obligations described in our posts here and here).  The alleged violations cited in the decision were simply tied to the failure to upload the annual report.  In fact, Cumulus stated that the report was prepared on time, but was not uploaded to the public file because of an administrative oversight due to staff turnover.  While the base fine for this violation totaled less than $10,000, the proposed fine was increased because Cumulus was found to have previous FCC rule violations for EEO and sponsorship identification matters.  Both Cumulus and the NAB argued that this amount was excessive for a single instance of a paperwork shortcoming – the FCC rejecting that reasoning, finding that the upload was a critical part of the broadcaster’s EEO obligations as it gives the public a way to monitor the performance of the licensee. Continue Reading FCC Imposes $26,000 Fine on Broadcaster for One EEO Annual Public File Report that was Uploaded Late

Expecting quiet weeks, we took the holidays off from providing our weekly summary of regulatory actions of interest to broadcasters.  But, during that period, there actually were many regulatory developments.  Here are some of those developments, with links to where you can go to find more information as to how these actions may affect your

A new year – and our annual opportunity to pull out the crystal ball and look at the legal issues that will be facing broadcasters in the new year.  We’ve already published our 2024 Broadcasters Calendar and, as we noted before the holidays, it highlights the many lowest unit rate windows for the November election.  With a heavily contested election almost upon us, there may be calls on the FCC to modify regulations affecting political broadcasting or for more monitoring of broadcasters’ online public files, which caused so many issues in recent years (see for instance, our posts here and here).  Even if there are no FCC proceedings that deal with the rules for political broadcasting, the election will be watched by all broadcasters, and all Americans, to see the direction in which the country will head for the next four years.  With that election looming, 2024 may be a very active year in regulation as there traditionally is significant post-election turnover at the FCC no matter which party wins.  With that turnover in mind, we may see Commissioners looking to cement their regulatory legacies in the coming year.

Last year, we noted the number of pending issues at the FCC that had not been resolved because of the partisan deadlock on the Commission while the nomination of Gigi Sohn to fill the one vacant seat was stalled in the Senate.  That deadlock was finally overcome by her withdrawal from consideration and the subsequent nomination and confirmation of Anna Gomez, who was sworn in as a Commissioner in late September.  Since then, the FCC has acted on several long-pending priorities, including the adoption of open internet rules and, for broadcasters, last week’s adoption of an Order resolving the 2018 Quadrennial Review of the local broadcast ownership rules (see our summary of that action here). Continue Reading Gazing into the Crystal Ball at Legal and Policy Issues for Broadcasters in 2024 – Part I: What to Expect From the FCC

While we normally publish a weekly summary of regulatory actions relevant to broadcasters, the weekend before last we said that we would take the holiday weeks off – and return with a summary on January 7 of all that occurred over the break – unless there was news in the interim.  Well, there has been

The new year brings a series of noteworthy regulatory deadlines for broadcasters in January.  As always, broadcasters should consult with their own attorneys and advisors to make sure that they are aware of and ready to act on any other deadlines that are not listed below.

Congress still has not passed budget bills for the fiscal year that started on October 1, and some of the “continuing resolutions” to fund the federal government at last year’s levels run out on January 19, with the FCC’s budget set to expire on February 2.  Thus, at least a partial government shutdown may well occur if Congress fails to act this month.  As we previously discussed here and here, if a government shutdown does occur, some government agencies may have to cease all but critical functions if they do not have any residual funds to continue operations.  If no funding is approved, the FCC will announce how any shutdown will affect it, including whether it has any residual funds to keep operating beyond any general funding deadline.  Watch Congressional actions and any FCC announcements to see how any deadlines that apply to your station will be affected by the funding deadline.

With those concerns in mind, let’s look at some of the specific dates and deadlines for broadcasters in January.  Beginning January 1, television stations affiliated with the Top 4 Networks and operating in Nielsen Designated Market Areas (DMAs) 91 through 100 will be added to the list of markets that are subject to the FCC’s audio description rules.  The DMAs where the rules become effective on January 1 are:  El Paso (Las Cruces), Paducah-Cape Girardeau-Harrisburg, Cedar Rapids-Waterloo-Iowa City & Dubuque, Burlington-Plattsburgh, Baton Rouge, Jackson, MS, Fort-Smith-Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers, Boise, South Bend-Elkhart, and Myrtle Beach-Florence – in addition to Chattanooga and Charleston, SC, which were previously in DMAs 92 and 91, respectively, but are now in DMAs 84 and 88.  We reported here on the FCC’s recent reminder that these new markets will be subject to the audio description requirements as of January 1.  TV stations associated with the Top 4 networks in these markets are required to provide audio description for 50 hours of programming per calendar quarter, either during prime time or in children’s programming, and 37.5 additional hours of audio description per calendar quarter between 6 a.m. and 11:59 p.m. local time, on each programming stream that carries one of the top four commercial television broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC). Continue Reading January Regulatory Dates for Broadcasters – Expansion of Audio Description Requirements, Music Royalty Cost of Living Increases, Quarterly Issues/Programs Lists, Childrens Television Programming Reporting, Political Windows, and More

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

  • The FCC adopted a Report and Order establishing rules implementing the January 2023 Low Power Protection Act, which provides