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

In July, we wrote about the FCC’s plan to transfer the responsibility for EEO enforcement from the Media Bureau, where it has resided, to the Enforcement Bureau which the FCC suggested would have more resources and experience to aggressively enforce the FCC’s EEO rules and policies.  That transfer was effective on Friday (see the

The FCC yesterday adopted an order moving broadcast EEO enforcement from the FCC’s Media Bureau to its Enforcement Bureau. The change will be effective later, after certain procedural approvals are obtained and after notice is published in the Federal Register. As EEO enforcement is primarily aimed at broadcasters and cable companies, and has been part of the Media Bureau responsibilities since the Bureau existed, why was this change made and what does it mean?

The FCC makes clear in its order that the reason for the move is that the Enforcement Bureau is for better enforcement of the EEO rules. Specifically, the FCC said this about the transfer of authority from the Media Bureau to the Enforcement Bureau:

The Enforcement Bureau’s staff has extensive experience conducting investigations and pursuing enforcement in a wide range of areas. They therefore are well positioned to provide assistance and guidance with EEO review, audit, and enforcement work. Further, the Enforcement Bureau has expertise in, and maintains tools and databases to aid with, the tracking of statutory deadlines, including those relevant to EEO audits and investigations, that the Media Bureau does not.

Thus, broadcasters need to be ready for more rigorous enforcement of the EEO rules.
Continue Reading Moving FCC EEO Enforcement from the Media to the Enforcement Bureau – What Does It Mean?

April brings with it a milestone – as it is the end of the first quarter since all radio stations have had to have their online public inspection file “live” so that anyone, anywhere, can view a station’s compliance with rules that previously could only be judged by going to the station and reviewing the paper public file. April 10, in particular, is important, as it is when Quarterly Issues Programs Lists, summarizing the most important issues facing the community which the broadcaster serves and the programs that the broadcaster aired to address those issues, must be in the online public file for all full-power radio and TV stations. We wrote about the importance of these sometimes overlooked documents here, as these are the only FCC-mandated documents that reflect how a station has served the needs and interests of its community. We have also noted that, in the past license renewal cycle, missing Quarterly Issues Programs lists were the source of the most fines issued to broadcasters. Now that compliance can be judged at any time by the FCC, their importance is only magnified. So be sure that you get these documents into your online public file by April 10.

EEO Public Inspection File Reports, summarizing a station’s employment record for the prior year, are also to be uploaded to a station’s online public file. For radio and TV stations in Delaware, Indiana, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Texas, these reports need to be completed and included in the public file by April 1 by all stations that are part of employment units with 5 or more full-time (30 hours per week) employees. In addition, radio stations in employment units with 11 or more full-time employees in Delaware and Pennsylvania, and TV stations in Texas with 5 or more full-time employees, also need to file EEO Mid-Term Reports, commonly referred to as FCC Form 397 applications. While the FCC is considering the abolition of the Mid-Term Report (see our article here), the obligation is still in place so, for now, stations must comply.
Continue Reading April Regulatory Dates for Broadcasters – First Quarterly Issues Programs Lists in Online Public File for All Radio Stations and Other Important Dates

On Friday, the FCC issued a Public Notice announcing its first EEO audit of 2018. The Notice lists the almost 300 radio and television stations that will be subject to the review as well as the rules that apply to that audit. And those rules are somewhat new.  First, the notice itself was not sent by mail, but instead by email – the first time that email has been used to deliver the notice of an EEO audit.  Some broadcasters who received the email seemed surprised and wondered if the email really was an official FCC communication, so the FCC included verification methods in the letter including a link to the Public Notice.  So, if you are listed on the Public Notice, you are subject to the audit.

Second, the procedure for responding to the audit is different.  No longer does the broadcaster subject to the audit have to submit paper copies of all of its documents to the FCC through the FCC Secretary’s office.  Instead, the response will be filed in the station’s online public file.  The response must be uploaded to the online public file by April 12.  There, the FCC can review that response (as can anyone else anywhere, at any time, as long as they have an internet connection).  The audit requires that the broadcaster submit their last two EEO Public File Reports (which should already be in the online public file) and backing data to support the outreach efforts.  Broadcasters subject to the audit should carefully review the audit letter to see the details of the filing.
Continue Reading The First EEO Audit of 2018 With a New Wrinkle – Notifications by Email and Responses Submitted Through the Online Public File

A Notice of Apparent Liability released yesterday shows that the FCC is still enforcing its EEO rules even though those rules have been somewhat relaxed to reflect modern recruiting practices. As we wrote here, the FCC now allows a station to recruit to fill employment vacancies solely by using online sources. But, as we warned here, that does not mean that a station can ignore its obligations to document its EEO efforts and to otherwise observe all of the obligations set out in the EEO rules. In yesterday’s action, the FCC’s Media Bureau proposes a $20,000 fine for a license operating a 5-station cluster in South Carolina that allegedly did not keep good EEO records and, when subject to a random EEO audit, was unable to identify any recruitment sources for other than word-of-mouth recruiting for 6 of 11 hires over a two-year period. For several positions, the licensee was said to not even be able to provide information about any recruitment sources that were used by the station.

The FCC requires stations to use sources other than its existing employees to recruit to fill full-time vacant positions. Using simply word-of mouth recruiting is considered to be recruiting through the “old-boys network” that the FCC’s EEO rules are designed to overcome, so this violation alone was enough for the FCC to have concerns. But, according to the FCC’s Notice, that was not the only deficiency in the licensee’s paperwork.
Continue Reading FCC Still Enforcing EEO Rules For Broadcasters – $20,000 Fine for Stations that Did Not Document EEO Outreach

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 Almost 80 Radio Stations Hit With New FCC EEO Audit Letter

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