annual EEO public inspection file report

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

While there are a number of regulatory deadlines scheduled for broadcasters in the month of March, there is also the potential for some of those to shift if we have a federal government shutdown.  As of the date of the publication of this article, we do not know if a federal government shutdown will occur this month, with the FCC and FTC currently being funded only through March 8.  As we recently discussed here, the FCC and other government agencies may have to cease all but critical functions if they do not have any residual funds to continue operations during a shutdown.  Therefore, if Congress fails to extend funding of the FCC and other government agencies past March 8, many of the regulatory deadlines discussed below will likely be postponed. If there is a shutdown, and any of the deadlines below apply to you, be sure to research how the shutdown affects your operations.

There are certain technical deadlines likely not affected by any shutdown.  Those include the requirement that, by March 11, broadcasters using Sage EAS equipment implement the requirement that, when a station receives an over-the-air EAS alert, it must wait at least 10 seconds to determine if a CAP alert has been sent through the IPAWS system and, if it has, the station should rebroadcast that internet-delivered CAP alert rather than the one received over the air.  We wrote more about that requirement on our Broadcast Law Blog, here. For stations using other EAS equipment, the deadline was December 12, 2023 to implement this requirement but as Sage was delayed in pushing out its equipment update, users of that equipment were given until March 11 to comply with this requirement. Continue Reading March Regulatory Dates for Broadcasters – Sage EAS Compliance Deadline, Effective Dates of New FCC Rules, Comment Deadlines, Daylight Savings Time, Political Windows, and More

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 signed a Continuing Resolution passed by Congress averting a federal government shutdown that was to begin on January

Earlier this week, the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau issued a Notice of Apparent Liability proposing a $25,000 fine on two related companies operating clusters of stations in two small Kansas markets.  Those clusters have, because of financial setbacks (leading to bankruptcy), reduced staff so that they no longer have 5 full-time employees at either cluster and thus are no longer subject to the FCC’s EEO outreach requirements. In this Notice, the FCC staff looked back to a few isolated violations in 2020 and 2021, when the stations had 5 or more full-time employees, to justify the proposed $25,000 fine.

The Enforcement Bureau pointed to the late upload to the online public file of three Annual EEO Public File Reports. The Bureau also pointed to the late upload of two Annual EEO Public File Reports at one of the clusters, and one late upload at the other cluster.  Both the 2020 and 2021 reports for one cluster were uploaded in June 2021, when the reports were due in February of each year.  Thus, one report was 5 months late, the other 17 months late.  At the other cluster, the 2021 report was uploaded a year late.  There was no allegation that the reports were not completed on time – just that they were not timely uploaded.Continue Reading $25,000 Proposed Fine for Alleged EEO Violations at Kansas Radio Clusters – A Higher Standard for FCC EEO Enforcement?

August may be a light month for regulatory dates, as everyone enjoys the end of the summer with many, including Congress, taking the last of their summer vacations.  But there are still dates to which broadcasters should be paying attention.  One that most commercial broadcasters should be anticipating is the order that will set the amount of their Annual Regulatory Fees, to be paid sometime in September before the October 1 start of the federal government’s new fiscal year.  Sometime in August (or possibly in the first days of September), the FCC will make a final determination on the amount of the fees, and then announce the deadlines for the payment of the fees.  As we wrote here, the FCC has proposed to decrease fees for broadcasters from the amounts paid in prior years, but there have been some comments filed in opposition to that proposal. An Order concerning regulatory fees is currently on circulation among FCC Commissioners, so watch for the FCC decision making a final determination on those fees.

August has other routine regulatory deadlines.   August 1 is the deadline for Radio and Television Station Employment Units in California, Illinois, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Wisconsin with 5 or more full-time employees to upload to their online public inspection file their Annual EEO Public File Report. 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 5 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. Continue Reading August Regulatory Dates for Broadcasters:  Reg Fee Order, EEO filings, HD Power Increase Proposal, and More

July is relatively light on broadcast regulatory dates, but the Quarterly Issues/Programs List deadline on July 10 is one that applies to all full-power broadcasters and Class A TV stations.  As set forth below, there are a few other dates worth noting this coming month – with more to come in August.

July 10 is the deadline by which all full-power television, full-power radio and Class A television stations must upload to their online public inspection files their Quarterly Issues/Program Lists for the second quarter of 2023.  The lists should identify the issues of importance to the station’s community and the programs that the station aired in April, May and June that addressed those issues.  As you finalize your lists, do so carefully and accurately, as they are the only official records of how your station is serving the public and addressing the needs and interests of its community.  See our article here for more on the importance of the Quarterly Issues/Programs list obligation.

July 10 is also the deadline by which noncommercial educational stations must upload to their public inspection files documentation of any on-air fundraising benefitting third parties that interrupted their normal programming from April 1 through June 30, 2023.  This obligation applies to noncommercial educational stations not affiliated with NPR or PBS that conducted such third-party on-air fundraising.  For more information about this requirement, see our article here.  Also on July 10, Class A television stations should upload to their online public file documentation of their continuing eligibility for Class A status during the period from April 1 through June 30, 2023.

Chairwoman Rosenworcel announced that the FCC, at its open meeting on July 20, intends to announce its decision resolving whether it will continue to allow “Franken FM” or “FM6 stations,” (i.e., LPTV stations operating on TV channel 6 with an analog audio service that can be received on FM radios at 87.7 MHz) to provide their existing analog radio service by authorizing it as an “ancillary or supplementary service.”  LPTV operators had asked the FCC to bless the post-conversion operation of an analog audio signal embedded in the digital Channel 6 LPTV station transmissions so that these FM broadcasts can continue, which the FCC has tentatively decided to do with respect to 13 LPTV stations that had provided such service in the past.  For more details on this item, see our blog article here

July 31 is the deadline by which commercial television stations with locally-produced programming whose signals were carried as distant signals by at least one cable or satellite system in 2022 may file royalty claims for compensation with the Copyright Office in Washington, DC.  Cable and satellite systems are obligated to pay these royalties pursuant to their compulsory copyright license to carry distant TV signals on their systems. Stations that do not file claims by the July 31 deadline will not be able to collect royalties for distant carriage of their signals during 2022.  The filing process consists of two-steps: (1) if you did not do so last year, you must register through the Copyright Royalty Boards’s eCRB system and then (2) file your claim electronically through eCRB by July 31, 2023.  

The Commission recently issued a Public Notice announcing that it is taking comments on a Petition for Rulemaking filed by REC Networks in which REC proposes rules to govern a possible future FM translator filing window.  Among REC’s proposals are a limit on applications by any one applicant and limits on the sale of any construction permits that are granted in any new filing window.  Comments on the REC Petition are due on July 26, 2023 and will give the FCC the opportunity to decide whether to further advance these proposals through a formal rulemaking process. 

The FCC has published its All-In Pricing for Cable and Satellite Television Service Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM).  Comments are due July 31, and replies are due August 29.  The NPRM proposes to require cable operators and direct broadcast satellite (DBS) providers to specify the “all-in” price for video service in their promotional materials and on subscribers’ bills.  Cable operators and DBS providers would be able to complement the aggregate line item with an itemized explanation of the elements that compose that single line item. 

Looking forward to early August, August 1 is the deadline for Radio and Television Station Employment Units in California, Illinois, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Wisconsin with 5 or more full-time employees to upload to their online public inspection file their Annual EEO Public File Report. 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 5 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 a station’s website, if it has a website. 

For those radio employment units in North Carolina and South Carolina, the Annual EEO Public File Report brings a new requirement, as this is the mid-point of those stations’ renewal term.  As we wrote here, this means that the FCC will conduct its EEO Mid-Term Review of those radio employment units with 11 or more full-time employees.  When radio stations in these states upload their Annual EEO Public File Reports, they must also check a new checkbox in the Settings section of the FCC-hosted public inspection file stating whether or not they have 11 or more full-time employees in their employment unit, so the FCC knows which clusters to review as part of the Mid-Term Review.  All other radio groups will need to complete this step as well prior to their Mid-Term Review.

As always, this list of dates is not exhaustive.  Note, too, that deadlines can change.  Always review these dates with your legal and technical advisors, and note other dates not listed here that may be relevant to your operations. Continue Reading July Regulatory Dates for Broadcasters – Quarterly Issues/Programs Lists, Franken FMs, Copyright Distant Signal Copyright Claims, and More

Though school is out for many, the FCC does not take a summer recess.  Instead, regulation continues.  While the pace of new FCC regulatory issues for broadcasters has slowed, perhaps pending the confirmation of a new Commissioner and the return of the FCC to full strength, there are still regulatory matters in June worth watching.  Some are routine, others look more to the future – but all are worth watching just the same. 

One of the routine regulatory deadlines comes on June 1, as it is the deadline for Radio and Television Station Employment Units in Arizona, District of Columbia, Idaho, Maryland, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, Ohio, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming with 5 or more full-time employees to upload to their online public inspection file their Annual EEO Public File Report. 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 5 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 a station’s website, if it has a website. Continue Reading June Regulatory Dates for Broadcasters – EEO, Rulemaking Comments, AM Congressional Hearings, and More