annual EEO public file report

While the FCC in April made broadcaster’s compliance with the FCC’s EEO rules easier by allowing the wide dissemination of information about job openings through online sources (see our article here), there still remain significant obligations under those rules (see our article here). The FCC made that clear on Friday, releasing a Public Notice announcing its second EEO audit letter of 2017 for about 80 radio broadcasters, all west of the Mississippi. The FCC’s public notice announcing the commencement of the audit includes the audit letter that was sent to all of the targeted stations.  The list of about 80 radio stations subject to the audit is here. Responses are due July 27, 2017. As employment information for all stations within a named station’s “employment unit” must be provided in response to the audit, the reach of this notice goes beyond the 80 stations named in the audit notices.

The FCC reminds stations that were targeted by the audit to put a copy of the audit letter in their public file. The response, too, must go into the file. For all the TV stations hit by the audit letter, and those radio stations that have already converted to the online public file, that will mean that the audit letter and response go into that FCC-hosted online public file.
Continue Reading

In the swirl of news about the deregulatory efforts of the new FCC, one could almost forget that there are still many regulations in place that require significant amounts of paperwork retention by broadcasters. That point was hammered home yesterday, when the FCC released its first EEO audit letter of 2017 for radio and TV broadcasters. The FCC’s public notice announcing the commencement of the audit includes the audit letter that was sent to all of the targeted stations.  The list of over 200 radio stations subject to the audit is here. The list of almost 80 TV stations is here. Responses are due March 28, 2017. As employment information for all stations within a named station’s “employment unit” must be provided in response to the audit, the reach of this notice goes far beyond the 300 stations targeted in the audit notices. While the FCC is considering a proposal to allow online recruiting sources to suffice to meet a broadcaster’s wide dissemination requirements (as we wrote here), that proposal is still at an early stage and, as this audit notice evidences, the underlying rules remain in place.

The FCC reminds stations that were targeted by the audit to put a copy of the audit letter in their public file. The response, too, must go into the file. For all the TV stations hit by the audit letter, and those radio stations that have already converted to the online public file, that will mean that the audit letter and response go into that FCC-hosted online public file.

The Commission has pledged to randomly audit 5% of all broadcast stations and cable systems each year to assure their compliance with the Commission’s EEO rules – including the requirements for wide dissemination of information about job openings and non-vacancy specific supplemental efforts to educate a station’s community about job opportunities in the media industry.  We recently summarized FCC EEO issues here, reminding broadcasters of the possibility of being audited.  The FCC also has the opportunity to audit larger broadcasters’ EEO performance when they file their FCC EEO Mid-Term Report. We also wrote about the start of the obligations for the filing of FCC Form 397 EEO Mid-Term Reports – which started the year before last for radio groups with more than 11 full-time employees and last year for TV licensees with 5 or more full-time employees in a few months, and are filed on the 4th anniversary of the filing deadline for the station’s license renewal – which will give the FCC another chance to review station EEO performance.  
Continue Reading

While there is a new administration in charge at the FCC, there are still those regular regulatory dates that broadcasters must face, as well as dates unique to pending proceedings that arise from time to time. Before we get to the February dates, we should remind broadcasters of those January 31 dates that they should be considering, including the deadline for signing up for the Interim License Agreement for those radio stations playing music represented by the new performing rights organization GMR (see our articles here and here). January 31 is also the deadline for payment of SoundExchange yearly minimum fees by webcasters (including broadcasters who stream their music on the Internet), as well as the date for comments to the House Judiciary Committee on the structure of the Copyright Office (see our article here) and with the Copyright Office on the qualifications for a new Register of Copyrights (see our article here).

With the start of February, there are routine regulatory dates for broadcasters dealing with EEO requirements. Commercial and Noncommercial Full-Power and Class A Television Stations and AM and FM Radio Stations in Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, and Oklahoma that are part of an Employment Unit with 5 or more full-time employees, must place in their public file (or upload to their online file for TV and radio stations that have already converted) their EEO Public File Reports. Stations also need to put a link to the EEO Public File reports on the home page of their websites, if their station has a website (meaning they have to have a webpage for their most recent report if they have not converted to the online public file). For Radio Station Employment Units with 11 or more full-time employees in Kansas, Nebraska, and Oklahoma and Television Employment Units with five or more full-time employees in Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi, FCC Mid-Term Reports on Form 397 must be submitted to the FCC by February 1. We wrote about FCC Mid-Term Reports here.
Continue Reading

While we are into the holiday season, that does not stop the routine regulatory obligations for broadcasters. December 1 brings a host of routine obligations for stations in many states. EEO public file reports must be added to the public files of Commercial and Noncommercial Full-Power and Class A Television Stations and AM and FM Radio Stations in Alabama, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota, and Vermont that are part of an Employment Unit with 5 or more full-time employees. Of course, for TV stations and radio stations that have already converted to the online public file, that will mean uploading those reports to the FCC-hosted public file. For all stations, a link needs to be included on the main page of your station website, if your station has a website, which leads to these reports. Mid-Term EEO Reports on FCC Form 397 must be filed with the FCC by December 1 by radio employment units with 11 or more full-time employees in Colorado, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota and television employment units with five or more full-time employees in Alabama and Georgia. For more on these Mid-Term Reports, see our article here.  

A year from now, on December 1, 2017, all broadcast stations are expected to be required to file Biennial Ownership Reports, including noncommercial stations which now have those reports due on the anniversary date of the filing of their license renewal applications. See our article here on the new obligation that will be effective next year, though appeals of that requirement from some noncommercial groups are pending (see our article here). But, until that rule is effective, non-commercial stations need to continue to file on their renewal anniversary dates. Thus, on December 1 of this year, Noncommercial Television Stations in Alabama, Connecticut, Georgia, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont and Noncommercial AM and FM Radio Stations in Colorado, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota have the obligation to submit their Biennial Ownership Reports to the FCC.
Continue Reading

An FCC decision fining a cable company $11,000 for not adequately recruiting for job openings should be viewed as a warning to broadcasters as well as well as MVPDs – failure to recruit for job openings by disseminating information about those opening through diverse sources will likely result in a substantial fine under the current rules being enforced by the Commission’s Media Bureau. As the Commission has held before (see our article here), simply recruiting through online sources will not be enough to avoid the imposition of a fine. In this case, the FCC specifically points out that approximately 30% of the cable system’s service area did not have Internet access, so people in that group were likely not exposed to information about the station’s job openings. As the Commission requires that job openings be publicized so as to reach all groups within a system’s (or a broadcast station’s) recruitment area (which is related to its core service area), the decision found that the failure to recruit so as to reach this significant portion of the local population, together with the failure to complete one year’s EEO public inspection file report, merited a fine of $11,000.

One of the interesting aspects of this decision is the emphasis that the Media Bureau continues to put on the distinction between online recruiting and other more traditional means of reaching out to potential job applicants (e.g. using employment agencies, sending notices to community groups, using college job offices, etc.). Even though Commissioner O’Rielly has suggested that the Commission allow recruiting to be done solely using online sources (see our article here), as that is much more in tune with the way that job seekers today look for potential employment opportunities, the Commission continues to insist on station’s using these more traditional outreach efforts regardless of their success rate. In fact, the FCC has never revisited its 2003 EEO order that presumes that the local newspaper is a source that can reach most groups within a community, when it no doubt can be proven that, in today’s world, the circulation of online job sites is significantly greater than that of almost any newspaper. Commissioner O’Rielly notes that the FCC itself has recognized the reach of the Internet through actions such as the requirements that broadcast and MVPD public files be moved online, and that disclosures about contest rules can be made online. Yet, in the EEO world, online recruitment, unless tied with the use of other more traditional outside sources, will bring a fine. Certainly, it is an issue that the FCC needs to revisit – and one that perhaps will be revisited in appeals of decisions like this one, or in response to the calls of Commissioner O’Rielly and others.
Continue Reading

The FCC today released its most recent EEO audit letter for broadcasters – and it is a relatively brief list – just one page with 58 radio stations listed (compare this with the last audit that targeted about 280 radio and TV stations, see our article here).  The FCC’s public notice includes the audit letter that was sent to all of the targeted stations.  Responses are due July 28, 2016. The FCC reminds stations that were targeted by the audit to put a copy of the audit letter in their public file. The response, too, must go into the file. While there are very few Top 50 market stations on the list, those that are listed will need to right away upload the response in their online public file if they file after June 24, the effective date of the online public file for new documents filed by Top 50 market commercial stations that are part of an employment unit with 5 or more full-time employees (see this article for more information on the online public file for radio).

The Commission has pledged to audit 5% of all broadcast stations and cable systems each year to assure their compliance with the Commission’s EEO rules – including the requirements for wide dissemination of information about job openings and non-vacancy specific supplemental efforts to educate a station’s community about job opportunities in the media industry.  We recently summarized FCC EEO issues here, reminding broadcasters of the possibility of being audited.  We also wrote about the start of the obligations for the filing of FCC Form 397 EEO Mid-Term Reports – which started last year for radio groups with more than 11 full-time employees and will extend to TV licensees with 5 or more full-time employees in a few months, and are filed on the 4th anniversary of the filing deadline for the station’s license renewal – which will give the FCC another chance to review station EEO performance.  
Continue Reading

While summer has just about arrived, FCC regulatory dates do not depart to the beach and leave the world behind.  Instead, there are a host of filing deadlines this month.  EEO Public Inspection file reports must, by June 1, be placed in the public inspection files of stations that are part of employment units with 5 or more full-time employees if the stations are located in the following states: Arizona, Idaho, Maryland, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, Ohio, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Wyoming, and the District of Columbia.  Radio stations in Michigan and Ohio that are part of employment units with 11 or more full-time employees need to also file an FCC Mid-Term EEO Report on FCC Form 397 (see our article on the Form 397 here).  TV stations with 5 or more employees also need to file that report if they are located in Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia or the District of Columbia.

There are regular dates, too, for noncommercial stations in certain states when licensees must file their Biennial Ownership Reports on FCC Form 323E.  While these reports will eventually be filed on December 1 of odd-numbered years, at the same time as Biennial Ownership Reports of commercial stations, at this point the new rules have not yet gone into effect (see our articles here and here).  Thus, by June 1, the licensees of noncommercial radio stations in Michigan and Ohio and noncommercial TV stations in Arizona, Idaho, Maryland, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Wyoming, and the District of Columbia must file their Biennial Ownership Reports.
Continue Reading

The FCC today issued a Public Notice announcing its first EEO audit for 2016.  Letters to about 280 radio and television stations went out on February 24 asking for evidence of their compliance with the FCC’s EEO rules.  In today’s notice, the FCC released the form audit letter and list of stations that will be audited. Responses from the audited stations are due to be filed at the FCC by April 11. Licensees should carefully review this list of affected stations which was released with the Public Notice to see if any of their stations have been selected for the audit.

The Commission has pledged to audit 5% of all broadcast stations and cable systems each year to assure their compliance with the Commission’s EEO rules – including the requirements for wide dissemination of information about job openings and non-vacancy specific supplemental efforts to educate a station’s community about job opportunities in the media industry.  We recently summarized FCC EEO issues here, reminding broadcasters of the possibility of being audited.  We also wrote about the start of the obligations for the filing of FCC Form 397 EEO Mid-Term Reports – which started last year for radio groups with more than 11 full-time employees and will extend to TV licensees with 5 or more full-time employees in a few months, and are filed on the 4th anniversary of the filing deadline for the station’s license renewal – which will give the FCC another chance to review station EEO performance.  
Continue Reading

December is one of those months when all commercial broadcasters have at least one FCC deadline, and there are also many other filing dates of which many broadcasters need to take note.  For all commercial broadcasters, Biennial Ownership Reports are due on December 2.  Hopefully, most broadcasters have already completed this filing obligation, as FCC electronic filing systems have been known to slow as a major deadline like this comes closer.  See our article here for more on the Biennial Ownership filing requirement that applies to all commercial broadcast stations.

Noncommercial stations are not yet subject to the uniform Biennial Ownership Report deadline (though the FCC has proposed that happen in the future, see our article here, a proceeding in which a decision could come soon).  But many noncommercial stations do have ownership report deadlines on December 1, as noncommercial reports continue to be due every two years, on even anniversaries of the filing of their license renewal applications.  Noncommercial Television Stations in Colorado, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota have to file their Biennial Ownership Reports by that date.  Noncommercial AM and FM Radio Stations in Alabama, Connecticut, Georgia, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont also have the same deadline for their Biennial Ownership Reports. 
Continue Reading

Last week, I conducted a webinar on the FCC’s EEO rules for 19 state broadcast associations, explaining the issues that broadcasters need to keep in mind to comply with those rules.  The slides from my presentation are available here.  On the same day, the FCC issued a Public Notice announcing another of their random EEO audits – this one limited to MVPD, principally cable systems, not broadcasters.  But, as the FCC has promised to audit 5% of all broadcast stations every year, the MVPD audit notice only serves as a reminder to broadcasters to keep up their FCC outreach efforts and recordkeeping requirements to make sure that, if they are audited, they will pass with flying colors.

During my presentation, I had a series of questions about defining an employment unit for EEO purposes.  A station employment unit is a group of commonly controlled stations serving a common geographic area having at least one employee in common.  The number of employees in an employment unit is important for determining if a station has, for instance, 5 full-time (30 hours per week) employees making it subject to the FCC outreach efforts requirements (and, for TV stations, the requirement to file a Mid-Term EEO report).  For radio groups, having 11 or more full-time employees in an employment unit makes them subject to the requirement to file with the FCC an EEO Mid-Term report.  If the unit spans different states with different EEO public inspection file dates, the licensee should pick one of the dates and consistently apply it in the future (filing the consistently prepared reports on the deadlines for FCC filings for each station in the group).  For stations newly acquired by an owners in its market, the buyer is responsible for the including the new station in the employment unit and reporting on the employment activities of the station from the date that the station is acquired.
Continue Reading