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