broadcast equal employment opportunity program

Two fines for EEO violations released Friday were among the rush of actions coming from the FCC last week as it tries to finish its work of 2014.  Incentive auction procedures, MVPD redefinition, online public file issues, approvals of long-pending TV company mergers and so many other actions were taken in the last week that we can’t keep up.  Now, we can add EEO violations to the list of year-end actions, as the FCC’s Media Bureau on Friday released two Notices of Apparent Liability to radio stations operators for violating the EEO rules, proposing fines of $5000 and $9000.  While, in both cases, the stations are principally faulted for their failure to engage in wide dissemination of job openings, one case cites a new issue as the issue partially underlying the EEO fine – the failure to actually provide notice of job openings to all of the recruitment sources that had requested that the station notify them when there are job vacancies. Both cases arose from station license renewal applications filed about more than 3 years ago.

Each EEO employment unit (stations under common control, serving the same geographic area and sharing a common employee) with 5 or more full-time employees must engage in the three prongs of the FCC’s EEO outreach requirements.  First, they must engage in wide dissemination of information about job openings, using a variety of recruitment sources to ensure that information about job openings at a station reach all of the diverse groups of people that may be represented within the station’s recruitment area.  Secondly, they must let groups within the community know that they can ask to be notified of job openings at the station when such openings arise (and in fact provide such notice when the openings do arise).  Finally, they must engage “non-vacancy specific outreach efforts” – activities to educate the community about broadcast employment – what people do in broadcast jobs, how they can find out about the jobs, and what sort of training or experience is necessary for jobs in the industry.  It was violations of these first two prongs of the FCC’s EEO program that got the stations in trouble in these two recent orders.
Continue Reading Fines of $9000 and $5000 Imposed on Radio Stations for Insufficient EEO Outreach Efforts – Reminder to Review Your Program as EEO Mid-Term Report Cycle Begins in 2015

Fines of $14,000 and $8,000 were proposed by the FCC for violations of its EEO rules in two cases (here and here) released on the FCC’s last business day of the year.  In both cases, the fines were issued as these clusters of stations, on the FCC Form 396 EEO Reports filed with their license renewal applications, publicized a number of job openings without adequate recruitment.  In the cases faulted by the FCC, the stations’ recruitment relied solely on either internal station sources (e.g. word of mouth, referrals from existing employees, ads on the stations or on their own websites) or on on-line resources.  The Commission concluded that this was inadequate dissemination of the information about these openings.  Based on the failure to engage in broad outreach for all of their job openings, these fines were issued by the FCC – perhaps the first of more to come as the FCC reviews license renewal applications during the current license renewal cycle.  Perhaps coincidentally, the FCC will be conducting a webinar on its EEO rules on Wednesday, January 4, which is intended to help explain the obligations of broadcasters and other FCC regulated entities under these rules.

 The January 4 webinar will feature two panels.  The first will be a panel of FCC and private attorneys (I will be one of the participants) who will outline the legal obligations of broadcasters under the FCC’s EEO rules and policies and discuss how these rules are applied .  A second panel will feature industry representatives talking about EEO compliance best practices at their stations.  The webinar is free, but requires registration (here).  The FCC public notice of the webinar can be found here, and a further description of the seminar is available on its blog (here).  No doubt, the issues leading to the two fines announced on Friday will be discussed during the legal session.


Continue Reading FCC Fines Up to $14,000 Proposed for License Renewal EEO Violations, Commission To Hold Webinar to Explain Its Rules

The FCC has just announced another of its regular EEO audits, though this time its just for cable systems (see the FCC Public Notice and list of affected systems here).  The FCC will audit 5% of all broadcasters and cable companies each year to assess their EEO compliance, so be prepared in case you

The FCC yesterday issued another in its series of EEO random audit notices, asking that approximately 170 radio stations nationwide provide information about their hiring practices.  Information requested includes the last two years worth of broadcast EEO Public File reports, plus more complete documentation of the efforts outlined in the Public File reports and demonstrating that the information provided in the annual report was really conducted and accurately reported.  In addition, the FCC asks that a station provide an explanation if their most recent EEO public fie report cannot be found on the Station’s website.  The FCC’s Public Notice about this audit, which lists the stations that must respond, can be found here.  That Public Notice also reminds broadcasters of the obligation to post the EEO public file report on the station’s website, perhaps indicating that the FCC has been investigating and has found instances where this is not being done.  Responses to the audit must be filed by September 21.  A form of the EEO audit letter is available here

On the same day as the FCC issued this audit for radio stations, it issued a Public Notice to remind Multi-Channel Video Programming Distributors (MVPDs) with six or more full-time employees, including cable systems, of their obligation to file by September 30 their Annual EEO Program Reports on FCC Form 396-C .  This form is to be filed through the FCC’s electronic filing system.  This notice also reminds certain cable systems of the need to submit supplemental information about their hiring efforts to the FCC. 


Continue Reading FCC Announces New Round of EEO Audits for Radio Stations; Reminds Broadcsters of Requirement to Post Annual EEO Public File Report on Station Website, and Cable Companies of Obligation to File EEO Program Annual Report

The FCC today released another Public Notice announcing the random audit of the EEO performance of a number of broadcast stations – listing both radio and television stations that have to respond, with stations spread throughout the country.  The FCC has promised to annually audit 5% of all broadcast licensees to assess their compliance with the FCC’s EEO rules.  These rules require the wide dissemination of information about job openings at their stations and "supplemental efforts" to educate their communities about employment opportunities at broadcast stations, even in the absence of employment openings.  The FCC’s audit letter requires the submission of two years worth of the Annual Public File reports that stations prepare each year on the anniversary date of the filing of their license renewal applications.  These reports are placed in the station’s public file and posted on their websites (if they have websites).  The FCC’s public notice about this audit emphasizes the requirement for posting the Annual Report on a station’s website, perhaps confirming rumors that we have heard about the FCC’s staffers browsing station websites to look for these reports.

Stations are given until May 4 to complete the audit responses and submit them to the Commission.  Note that information needs to be supplied not just for the station named on the list, but also for all other stations in the same "station employment unit," i.e. a group of stations under common control, that serve the same general geographic area, and which have at least one common employee.  As recent audits have led to significant FCC fines (see our story here about fines issues just before the holidays), broadcasters who are listed on this audit list should take care in preparing their responses.  The audit notice should also remind other licensees who are lucky enough to avoid having been selected for inclusion on this audit list to review their EEO programs for FCC compliance purposes, as they could very well find themselves not so fortunate when the next FCC audit is announced.


Continue Reading FCC Launches New Round of EEO Audits – Highlights the Requirment for Posting Annual Report on Station’s Website