annual EEO public file report

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

Even with the holidays upon us, regulation never stops.  There are numerous regulatory dates in December to which broadcasters need to keep in mind.  Furthermore, as the 2024 presidential campaign is already underway, there are political advertising deadlines to watch out for.  Here are some of the upcoming deadlines:

December 1 is the filing deadline for Biennial Ownership Reports by all licensees of commercial and noncommercial full-power TV/AM/FM stations, Class A TV stations, and LPTV stations.  The reports must reflect station ownership as of October 1, 2023 (see our article here on the FCC’s recent reminder about these reports).  The FCC has been pushing for stations to fill these out completely and accurately by the deadline (see this reminder issued by the FCC last week), as the Commission uses these reports to get a snapshot of who owns and controls what broadcast stations, including information about the race and gender of station owners and their other broadcast interests (see our article from 2021 about the importance the FCC attaches to these filings). Continue Reading December Regulatory Dates for Broadcasters – Biennial Ownership Reports, Annual EEO Public File Reports, LPFM Filing Window, LUC Political Windows for 2024 Election, and More

The FCC yesterday issued a Public Notice, extending the deadlines for all filings that were due to be made next week in the FCC’s LMS or online public file systems.  The new deadline is February 28, 2023.  While we don’t usually post articles on this blog on Saturday, given that there may be broadcasters around the country hunched over their computers trying to make FCC filings due next week, we thought that we would make an exception today and send this alert.

This extension gives more time to broadcasters to upload many applications and reports that are due to be filed next week.  This includes license renewals that were due to be filed by February 1 by television stations, LPTV stations, TV translators, and Class A stations in New York and New Jersey.  For all commercial TV stations in the country, the Annual Children’s Programming Reports which were due January 30 are now due by February 28.  Quarterly Issues Programs lists for all broadcast stations, which originally were due to be uploaded to station public files by January 10 and then by January 31 per a prior FCC extension, must now be uploaded by February 28.  EEO Public File Reports for broadcast employment units with 5 or more full-time employees in Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, and Oklahoma were due to be uploaded to the online public file by February 1 – and that deadline too will be extended to February 28.  The Public Notice is broad, saying any public file document due to be upload or any FCC application to be filed through LMS are extended until February 28.  If you have any FCC deadline coming up, check with your attorney to see if it is covered by this extension.  Remember that this applies only to applications and reports to be filed through the FCC’s LMS and online public file systems. Continue Reading FCC Extends End of January Deadlines for LMS and Online Public File Documents Due to Filing System Technical Issues 

In the last week, the FCC issued proposed fines to two big radio companies for alleged violations of FCC requirements. One proposed fine was for apparent violations of the FCC’s EEO rules, and the other dealt with the obligations of broadcasters to disclose and follow rules for on-air contests.  In both cases, the proposed fines focused on paperwork issues, not necessarily substantive issues.  These decisions seem to signal to the broadcast industry generally that they need to dot every “I” and cross every “T” to avoid penalties like those proposed in these cases.

The EEO Notice of Apparent Liability, issued unanimously by all four FCC Commissioners, proposed a $32,000 fine on Cumulus Media because of one Annual EEO Public File Report that was uploaded to the online public file of co-owned stations in a Georgia market about 9 months after the due date for uploading the report (and the link to that report on each stations’ website was also missing for that period).  In addition, the FCC said that another fine for failing to self-assess the station’s EEO program was warranted. Broadcasters are required to regularly assess the effectiveness of their EEO program.  But what was that failure to assess?  The evidence relied on in issuing this fine was that the public file report had not been uploaded for over 9 months so, 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.  The 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 (described in our posts here and here).  The alleged violations cited in the decision were simply tied to the failure to upload the required documents.  While the base fines for these violations totaled less than $10,000, the proposed fine was increased because Cumulus previously had been found to have had FCC rule violations for EEO and sponsorship identification matters.
Continue Reading Two Proposed FCC Fines Suggest Tougher Enforcement – $32,000 for EEO Paperwork Issues and $20,000 for Alleged Contest Rule Violations

In many parts of the country, the air is turning crisp, the leaves are changing color, and kids are back in school (in some form), making it the perfect time to get caught up with regulatory dates and deadlines coming in October.  This is an unusual month where there are several routine regulatory deadlines – renewals, EEO filings, Quarterly Issues Programs Lists, and the must-carry/retransmission consent deadline, but no significant broadcast rulemaking comment deadlines, perhaps as we are nearing the end of the current administration which might not be around to finish any proceeding started now.

The routine deadlines include those for radio stations in Iowa and Missouri and TV stations in Florida, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands who should be putting the finishing touches on their license renewal applications, to be filed on or before October 1, along with the accompanying EEO program report.  Stations should also have their post-filing announcements ready and scheduled to begin airing on October 1.  Those announcements continue through December 16.  Stations are no longer required to air pre-filing announcements.  The schedule for post-filing announcements and sample announcement language is here for radio stations and here for TV stations.
Continue Reading October Regulatory Dates for Broadcasters: License Renewals, EEO Reports, Carriage Elections, Quarterly Issues/Programs Lists and More

The FCC yesterday released another of its regular EEO audit notices (available here), asking that approximately 240 radio stations and about 80 TV stations, and the station employment units (commonly owned stations serving the same area) with which they are associated, provide to the FCC (by posting the information in their online public inspection file) their last two year’s 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. Audited stations must provide copies of notices sent to employment outreach sources about each full-time vacancy at the stations as well as documentation of the supplemental efforts that all station employment units with 5 or more full-time employees are required to perform (whether or not they had job openings in any year). These non-vacancy specific outreach efforts are designed to educate the community about broadcast employment positions and to train employees for more senior roles in broadcasting. Stations must also provide, in response to the audit, information about how they self-assessed the performance of their EEO program. Stations that are listed in the audit notice have until March 23, 2020 to upload this information into their online public file.

The FCC has promised to randomly audit 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 license renewal cycle which began last year adds to the importance of this audit, as a broadcaster does not want a recent compliance issue to headline the record the FCC will be reviewing with its license renewal (see our article here about the license renewal cycle). So, whether you are on the list or not, this is a good time for broadcasters to review what is required by the FCC’s EEO rules.
Continue Reading FCC Issues First EEO Audit of 2020 Targeting 320 Radio and Television Stations – Reviewing the Basics of the FCC’s EEO Rules

Here we are, more than a week into the New Year, and already we’ve written about a host of regulatory issues that will be facing broadcasters in the first month of the year (see for instance our articles here and here).  But what about the rest of the year?  As we do most years,

The FCC yesterday released another of its regular EEO audit notices (available here), asking that approximately 80 radio stations, and the employment units with which they are associated, provide to the FCC (by posting the information in their online public inspection file) their last two year’s 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. Audited stations must provide copies of notices sent to employment outreach sources about each full-time vacancy at the stations as well as documentation of the supplemental efforts that all station employment units with 5 or more full-time employees are required to perform (whether or not they had job openings in any year). These non-vacancy specific outreach efforts are designed to educate the community about broadcast employment positions and to train employees for more senior roles in broadcasting. Stations must also provide, in response to the audit, information about how they self-assessed the performance of their EEO program. Stations that are listed in the audit notice have until July 29, 2019 to upload this information into their online public file.

The FCC has promised to randomly audit 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 license renewal cycle which just began adds to the importance of this audit, as a broadcaster does not want a recent compliance issue to headline the record the FCC will be reviewing with its license renewal (see our article here about the upcoming license renewal cycle). So this is a good time for broadcasters to review what is required by the FCC’s EEO rules.
Continue Reading Another EEO Audit Released – Looking at the FCC’s Current EEO Obligations

With the June 3 filing deadline fast approaching for license renewals for radio stations in Maryland, DC, Virginia and West Virginia, stations (including FM translators and LPFMs) licensed to any community in any of those states should be beginning to prepare their applications. As we wrote here, the FCC forms should be available next week, so once May 1 rolls around, early birds in those states can start to file their renewal applications and the accompanying EEO program report. These stations should also be running their pre-filing license renewal announcements on the 1st and 16th of May. Radio stations in the next renewal group, stations in North and South Carolina, should be prepared to begin their license renewal pre-filing announcements in June – so in May they should be recording and scheduling that announcement to run for the first time on June 1 (see this article on pre-filing announcements for more information).

While May is one of those months with no other regularly scheduled regulatory filing deadlines, it is full of other FCC deadlines including comment dates in several proceedings of importance to broadcasters. In addition, broadcasters in Arizona, Idaho, Maryland, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, Ohio, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Wyoming, and the District of Columbia that are part of an Employment Unit with 5 or more full-time employees should also be preparing to add to their online public inspection file their Annual EEO Public File Report – due to be added to their files by June 1.
Continue Reading May Regulatory Dates for Broadcasters – License Renewal Activities and Lots of Comment Dates