In the swirl of news about the deregulatory efforts of the new FCC, one could almost forget that there are still many regulations in place that require significant amounts of paperwork retention by broadcasters. That point was hammered home yesterday, when the FCC released its first EEO audit letter of 2017 for radio and TV broadcasters. 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 over 200 radio stations subject to the audit is here. The list of almost 80 TV stations is here. Responses are due March 28, 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 far beyond the 300 stations targeted in the audit notices. While the FCC is considering a proposal to allow online recruiting sources to suffice to meet a broadcaster’s wide dissemination requirements (as we wrote here), that proposal is still at an early stage and, as this audit notice evidences, the underlying rules remain in place.

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.

The Commission has pledged to randomly audit 5% of all broadcast stations and cable systems each year to assure their compliance with the Commission’s EEO rules – including the requirements for wide dissemination of information about job openings and non-vacancy specific supplemental efforts to educate a station’s community about job opportunities in the media industry.  We recently summarized FCC EEO issues here, reminding broadcasters of the possibility of being audited.  The FCC also has the opportunity to audit larger broadcasters’ EEO performance when they file their FCC EEO Mid-Term Report. We also wrote about the start of the obligations for the filing of FCC Form 397 EEO Mid-Term Reports – which started the year before last for radio groups with more than 11 full-time employees and last year for TV licensees with 5 or more full-time employees in a few months, and are filed on the 4th anniversary of the filing deadline for the station’s license renewal – which will give the FCC another chance to review station EEO performance.  
Continue Reading FCC Releases First EEO Audit for 2017 – Over 200 Radio and Almost 80 TV Stations Named in the Audit Notice

The FCC today released its most recent EEO audit letter for broadcasters – and it is a relatively brief list – just one page with 58 radio stations listed (compare this with the last audit that targeted about 280 radio and TV stations, see our article here).  The FCC’s public notice includes the audit letter that was sent to all of the targeted stations.  Responses are due July 28, 2016. 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. While there are very few Top 50 market stations on the list, those that are listed will need to right away upload the response in their online public file if they file after June 24, the effective date of the online public file for new documents filed by Top 50 market commercial stations that are part of an employment unit with 5 or more full-time employees (see this article for more information on the online public file for radio).

The Commission has pledged to audit 5% of all broadcast stations and cable systems each year to assure their compliance with the Commission’s EEO rules – including the requirements for wide dissemination of information about job openings and non-vacancy specific supplemental efforts to educate a station’s community about job opportunities in the media industry.  We recently summarized FCC EEO issues here, reminding broadcasters of the possibility of being audited.  We also wrote about the start of the obligations for the filing of FCC Form 397 EEO Mid-Term Reports – which started last year for radio groups with more than 11 full-time employees and will extend to TV licensees with 5 or more full-time employees in a few months, and are filed on the 4th anniversary of the filing deadline for the station’s license renewal – which will give the FCC another chance to review station EEO performance.  
Continue Reading FCC EEO Audit List Released – 58 Radio Stations on the List

The FCC today issued a Public Notice announcing its first EEO audit for 2016.  Letters to about 280 radio and television stations went out on February 24 asking for evidence of their compliance with the FCC’s EEO rules.  In today’s notice, the FCC released the form audit letter and list of stations that will be audited. Responses from the audited stations are due to be filed at the FCC by April 11. Licensees should carefully review this list of affected stations which was released with the Public Notice to see if any of their stations have been selected for the audit.

The Commission has pledged to audit 5% of all broadcast stations and cable systems each year to assure their compliance with the Commission’s EEO rules – including the requirements for wide dissemination of information about job openings and non-vacancy specific supplemental efforts to educate a station’s community about job opportunities in the media industry.  We recently summarized FCC EEO issues here, reminding broadcasters of the possibility of being audited.  We also wrote about the start of the obligations for the filing of FCC Form 397 EEO Mid-Term Reports – which started last year for radio groups with more than 11 full-time employees and will extend to TV licensees with 5 or more full-time employees in a few months, and are filed on the 4th anniversary of the filing deadline for the station’s license renewal – which will give the FCC another chance to review station EEO performance.  
Continue Reading FCC Announces First Round of 2016 EEO Audits for Radio and TV Stations

Last week, I conducted a webinar on the FCC’s EEO rules for 19 state broadcast associations, explaining the issues that broadcasters need to keep in mind to comply with those rules.  The slides from my presentation are available here.  On the same day, the FCC issued a Public Notice announcing another of their random EEO audits – this one limited to MVPD, principally cable systems, not broadcasters.  But, as the FCC has promised to audit 5% of all broadcast stations every year, the MVPD audit notice only serves as a reminder to broadcasters to keep up their FCC outreach efforts and recordkeeping requirements to make sure that, if they are audited, they will pass with flying colors.

During my presentation, I had a series of questions about defining an employment unit for EEO purposes.  A station employment unit is a group of commonly controlled stations serving a common geographic area having at least one employee in common.  The number of employees in an employment unit is important for determining if a station has, for instance, 5 full-time (30 hours per week) employees making it subject to the FCC outreach efforts requirements (and, for TV stations, the requirement to file a Mid-Term EEO report).  For radio groups, having 11 or more full-time employees in an employment unit makes them subject to the requirement to file with the FCC an EEO Mid-Term report.  If the unit spans different states with different EEO public inspection file dates, the licensee should pick one of the dates and consistently apply it in the future (filing the consistently prepared reports on the deadlines for FCC filings for each station in the group).  For stations newly acquired by an owners in its market, the buyer is responsible for the including the new station in the employment unit and reporting on the employment activities of the station from the date that the station is acquired.
Continue Reading A Presentation to Explain the FCC’s EEO Rules, and Another EEO Audit

Another month is upon us, with the typical list of FCC dates of importance – and some new issues (including incentive auction developments that will probably be a regular part of our news through a good part of next year). One date of importance to some TV broadcasters was yesterday – July 1 – when TV stations affiliated with one of the Big Four TV networks and located in the Top 60 TV markets need to be carrying at least 50 hours of prime time or children’s programming each quarter containing video description. While most of this programming will come from the networks themselves, affiliates in these markets should be now be passing through enough of this video-described programming to meet the quarterly minimums.

July 10 brings other routine filing deadlines. For all broadcasters, by July 10 you should have in your public file (the online public file for TV stations) your Quarterly Issues Programs lists describing the most important issues that faced your community in the prior quarter and the programming that you broadcast to address those issues. Also due to be filed at the FCC by July 10 is your station’s Children’s Television Programming Report on Form 398 describing the programming broadcast on your station to serve the educational and informational needs of children. In addition, TV stations need to place in their online public file information showing compliance with the commercial limits in children’s programming and, for Class A stations, documentation showing continued eligibility for Class A status. For other dates of importance to broadcasters, see our Broadcaster Regulatory Calendar, here.
Continue Reading July Regulatory Dates for Broadcasters – Quarterly Issues Programs Lists and Children’s Television Reports, Incentive Auction Actions, CRB Webcasting Closing Argument and More

The FCC yesterday issued a Public Notice announcing its second EEO audit for 2015.  Letters to just over 100 radio (no TV stations were included in the current audit) went out on June 12 asking for evidence of their compliance with the FCC’s EEO rules.  Many of the stations included on this list appear to be noncommercial broadcasters. In yesterday’s notice, the FCC released the form audit letter and list of stations that will be audited. Responses from the audited stations are due to be filed at the FCC by July 27. Licensees should carefully review the list of affected stations contained in the Public Notice to see if any of their stations have been selected for the audit. Note that there are some blank pages included in the PDF version available at this link, so be sure to scroll through these blank pages to view the entire list of audited stations.

The Commission has pledged to audit 5% of all broadcast stations and cable systems each year to assure their compliance with the Commission’s EEO rules – including the requirements for wide dissemination of information about job openings and non-vacancy specific supplemental efforts to educate a station’s community about job opportunities in the media industry. We recently summarized the FCC EEO issues here, reminding broadcasters of the possibility of being audited. We also recently wrote about the start of the obligations for the filing of FCC Form 397 EEO Mid-Term Reports – which started this month for radio groups with more than 11 full-time employees and will extend to TV licensees with 5 or more full-time employees next year, and are filed on the 4th anniversary of the filing deadline for the station’s license renewal – which will give the FCC another chance to review station EEO performance.  
Continue Reading FCC Announces New Round of EEO Audits for Radio Companies

March is one of those rare months on the broadcast calendar when there are few routine regulatory deadlines for broadcasters. As we are winding down in the television license renewal cycle, the month’s only license renewal obligations for TV broadcasters are the pre-filing license renewal announcements on the 1st and 16th of the month for stations in Delaware and Pennsylvania, whose renewals are due on April 1, and the post-filing announcements for TV stations in New York and New Jersey. But there are still dates of interest to broadcasters in the month ahead. Here are some of those dates.

March also brings the obligation, by March 16 for TV stations to be in compliance with the Closed Captioning Quality Standards, which require that broadcasts assess and work to perfect the quality of the closed captioning carried on their stations. While the FCC is looking at bringing television program suppliers under these rules, as of now, the obligation for compliance with the rules is on the television broadcaster. We wrote about the captioning quality rules and the FCC’s recent proceeding to shift some of the burden to program suppliers here.
Continue Reading March Regulatory Dates for Broadcasters – Closed Captioning Quality Standards Effective Date, Comments on Online Public File, MVPD Status for Online Video Providers, LIFO for Political Ads, and FRNs for Biennial Ownership Reports

The FCC yesterday issued a Public Notice announcing the first set of EEO audits for 2015.  Letters to over 250 radio and TV stations went out asking for evidence of their compliance with the FCC’s EEO rules.  The Commission has pledged to audit 5% of all broadcast stations and cable systems each year to assure their compliance with the Commission’s EEO rules – requiring wide dissemination of information about job openings and non-vacancy specific supplemental efforts to educate their communities about job opportunities in the media industry. We recently summarized the FCC EEO issues here, reminding broadcasters of the possibility of being audited, and of the upcoming deadlines for the filing of FCC Form 397 EEO Mid-Term Reports, which will give the FCC another chance to review station EEO performance.  In yesterday’s notice, the FCC released the form audit letter and list of stations that will be audited. Responses from the audited stations are due to be filed at the FCC by March 24. Licensees should carefully review the list of affected stations contained in the Public Notice to see if any of their stations have been selected for the audit. 

The audit letter requires all stations with 5 or more full-time (30 or more hours per week) employees to provide a significant amount of information about their EEO programs and recruiting efforts (including copies of their 2 latest Annual EEO public file reports and documentation backing up the efforts listed on those reports).  Even stations with fewer than 5 full-time employees need to report the names and positions of their employees, and provide any information about law suits, EEOC complaints or similar employment actions brought as a result of equal employment or discrimination matters. 
Continue Reading FCC Announces EEO Audit of Over 250 Radio and TV Stations

With the Martin Luther King Day holiday just passed, it seems appropriate to review the FCC’s EEO rules, which look to promote broad access to broadcast employment opportunities.  The FCC’s EEO rules no longer seek exclusively to promote minority employment, but instead seek to have stations reach out to all groups within the area they serve to try to attract people from diverse sources into broadcasting – rather than allowing stations to simply recruit through word-of-mouth and traditional broadcast sources (e.g. referrals from consultants and friends).  We have written about the FCC audit process by which it will review the EEO performance of approximately 5% of all broadcast stations each year (see, e.g. our articles here and here) and also about recent fines for stations that did not comply with the FCC requirements in specific areas.  With EEO review also expanding this year through the filing of FCC Form 397 Mid-Term Reports by radio station clusters with 11 or more full-time employees located in certain states (see the list of states on our Broadcasters’ Regulatory Calendar), it might be good to review the basics of the FCC’s EEO requirements.

The FCC requirements, beyond forbidding any station from engaging in overt discrimination, also requires broad outreach to a station’s community to recruit for open employment positions at any station, as well as efforts to educate the community about the duties of and qualifications for  positions at broadcast stations, whether or not a station has any job openings.  These requirements apply to any station employment unit (a group of commonly-owned stations serving the same general geographic area and having one or more common employees) with 5 or more full-time (30 hours per week or more) employees.  What do the outreach rules require of stations?
Continue Reading Reminder: A Broadcaster’s FCC EEO Obligations

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