The FCC yesterday announced a policy that will relieve broadcasters of wide-dissemination EEO obligations in rehiring laid-off employees in a post-shutdown world.  Because of the significant economic hit taken by broadcasters when so many advertisers pulled their advertising schedules as so many businesses shut down, many broadcasters who did not receive PPP loans were forced to lay off employees in order to be able to afford to continue operating.  As the economy recovers, it is hoped, some of those employees can be rehired.  The FCC Media Bureau’s order released yesterday may make some of that hiring somewhat easier.

The decision yesterday allowed broadcasters who were forced to terminate employees because of the pandemic to rehire those same employees at some point in the future (within 9 months of the time that they were laid off), without having to go through the “wide dissemination” that the FCC rules normally require before an employment vacancy is filled.  Normally, the FCC requires that before filling any full-time employment vacancy, a broadcaster must advertise broadly to reach all groups within its community to inform them of the job opening to insure a pool of diverse recruits from which to fill that position (see our article here on the wide dissemination requirement).  Under this decision, the FCC will allow broadcasters to simply rehire an employee who was let go – without any wide dissemination of the job opening – if economic conditions allow for their re-hiring within 9 months of when they were first laid off.
Continue Reading EEO Relief for Broadcasters Hiring in the Post-Shutdown World

At last Thursday’s Public Hearing on multiple ownership in Chicago, about which we wrote here, a statement was read by a spokesman for Presidential candidate Barack Obama.  According to press reports, the statement expressed the candidate’s positions favoring shorter license renewal terms for broadcasters so that they would be subject to more public scrutiny, as well as criticizing the FCC for allowing broadcast consolidation.  These thoughts essentially echo the comments of FCC Commissioner Copps, especially on the subject of license renewal terms, whose views we wrote about here.  While many press reports have asked if this statement by Senator Obama foreshadows the broadcast ownership debate becoming part of the presidential campaign issues, we worry that it may signal a far broader attack on broadcasters during the upcoming political year.  The statement by Senator Obama is but one of a host of indications that broadcasters may face a rash of legislative issues that are now on the political drawing boards.

Broadcasters make easy targets for politicians as everyone is an expert on radio and television – after all, virtually everyone watches TV or listens to the radio and thus fancies themselves knowledgeable of what is good and bad for the public.  But those in Congress (and on the FCC) have the ability to do something about it.  And, with an election year upon us, they have the added incentive to act, given that any action is bound to generate at least some publicity and, for some, this may be their last opportunity to enact legislation that they feel important.  We’ve already written about the renewed emphasis, just last week, on passing legislation to overturn the Second Circuit’s decision throwing out the FCC’s fines on "fleeting expletives" and making the unanticipated use of one of those "dirty words" subject again to FCC indecency fines.  Clearly, no Congressman wants to be seen as being in favor of indecency (look at the rise in the indecency fines to $325,000 per occurrence which was voted through Congress just before the last election), and First Amendment issues are much more nuanced and difficult to explain to the voter, so watch this legislation.


Continue Reading One Sign That Broadcasters Are About to Become Political Footballs – Obama Suggests Shorter Broadcast License Terms and Less Consolidation