February 1 is the deadline by which broadcast stations in Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, and Oklahoma must place into their Public Inspection files their Annual EEO Public Inspection File Report.  The report must also be available on these stations’ websites, if they have such sites.  The Annual EEO Public Inspection File Report

February 1st marks the deadline for two FCC EEO requirements.  First, by February 1st, radio and television stations located in Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York and Oklahoma must prepare their Annual EEO Public File Reports. Specifically, stations or Station Employment Units (SEUs) in those states with five or more full time

In three cases released last week, the FCC made clear that its EEO rules, requiring wide dissemination of information about job opportunities at broadcast stations (and cable systems), are not satisfied by solely posting of information about openings on websites.  Instead, the Commission required that additional outreach efforts be undertaken in order to assure that the notice of the job opening reaches all groups within a  community.  The decisions pointed to the FCC’s 2003 Report and Order adopting the current rules which stated that the FCC did not feel that the Internet was sufficiently ubiquitous that they could feel comfortable with on-line postings being sufficient to reach all groups within a community.  In the recent decisions, the FCC staff said that they were not ready to change the determination of the 2003 Commission.

What does this mean on a practical level?  The decisions hold that simply using internal station sources plus on-line postings (in one case website postings plus some combination of walk-ins, industry referrals, and internal postings; in another case  the use of the station’s website, plus employee referrals) were insufficient to assure wide dissemination.  To avoid getting caught in this trap, broadcasters must use some other traditional outreach services (e.g. employment agencies, community groups, educational institutions, and the local newspapers) to assure that they meet the Commission’s wide dissemination requirements. 


Continue Reading On-line Recruitment Not Sufficient EEO Outreach for the FCC

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

In a decision released this week, the FCC granted the application of an FM station for license renewal, denying petitions filed by two former employees who contended that the station had violated a number of FCC rules.  After the FCC inspected the station and found only a few minor issues with the station’s public file

The FCC has released another Public Notice that it is auditing the EEO performance of a number of the entities that it regulates.  However, this time, the audits are not of broadcasters, but instead of cable companies and other multichannel video programming distributors who are subject to essentially the same EEO rules as broadcasters.  The

In two decisions released this week by the FCC, here and here, two large broadcast group owners were admonished for failures to comply with the FCC’s EEO rules. In both cases, failures to widely disseminate information about job openings in one market were discovered by the FCC in the course of random EEO audits that selected these stations for review. In both cases, the Commission determined that the violations were serious, and imposed reporting conditions (essentially subjecting the stations to an FCC audit of their EEO annual public file reports every year for the next 3 years). And in each case, the FCC would have fined the stations for their violations, but the Commission moved too slow, as in both cases, license renewals were granted between the time of the violations and the EEO audit.  Under provisions of the Communications Act, the Commission cannot fine a station for action that occurred during a prior renewal term – so the grant of the renewals cut off the possibility of a fine in these cases.

These actions highlight the importance of complying with the Commission’s EEO rules, which we have summarized in our EEO Guide, here. In particular, in both cases, the station groups had not widely disseminated information about job openings, as required by the rules. Wide dissemination requires the use of recruitment sources designed to reach all groups within a community to allow their members to learn about the job openings at the station. The Commission’s aim is to bring into the broadcast workforce employees representing diverse groups within a community rather than hiring all their employees from traditional broadcast sources.  In these cases, the stations had used only corporate websites, on-air announcements, and word of mouth recruiting. No outside sources, or sources reasonably likely to reach the entire community, were used by the broadcasters, hence the admonition and the reporting conditions. 


Continue Reading What a Difference A Renewal Makes – FCC Admonishes Two Broadcasters for EEO Violations, Fines Would Have Followed if Renewals Had Not Recently Been Granted

The FCC today announced another round of EEO audits of broadcast stations throughout the country.  The FCC’s Public Notice of the audits, and the list of the stations that are affected, can be found here.  Broadcasters should review this list carefully, both by call letter and licensee name, as we have noted situations where the

As we reminded broadcasters earlier this month, the first filings of FCC Form 397, the Broadcast Mid-Term EEO Report, will be due to be filed at the FCC on June 1.  This report is filed 4 years after the due date for filing of a station’s license renewal application, and is to be filed by all radio station employment units with more than 10 full time employees, and all TV station employment units with five or more employees.  The first reports are due on June 1 by radio groups in Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia.  Every two months thereafter, stations in a different group of states will need to file their Mid-Term reports.  Last week, the FCC released a Public Notice clarifying some aspects of the filing process.

The Public Notice addressed two principal issues – (1) what happens when radio station clusters and their associated station employment units include stations in different states with different filing deadlines, and (2) what happens when employment units include both radio and television stations in the same state.  For radio employment units with stations in different states, the FCC reminds broadcasters that they should have made an election about which state’s filing deadline to use back in 2003 when the current EEO rules were adopted, and they should have been using that election for each of their public file reports since then.  That same election would control the filing deadline for the Mid-Term report. 


Continue Reading FCC Issues Clarification of Mid-Term EEO Report Obligations of Broadcasters