FCC Form 397 Mid-Term EEO Report

EEO Mid-Term Reports on FCC Form 397 must be filed at the mid-point of the renewal cycle of radio stations if they are part of a station employment unit with more than 10 full-time employees, or 5 or more full-time employees for TV. A station employment unit is one or more commonly-controlled stations serving substantially the same area, and sharing at least one employee. As it has been 4 years since the first radio renewal applications were filed in the last license renewal cycle, June 1 brings the deadline for radio groups in Maryland, DC, Virginia and West Virginia that have more than 11 or more full-time (30 hours per week) employees to file their Form 397 Reports. The FCC yesterday issued a reminder to stations about this obligation.

The reminder does not address in any detail the content of the form. Essentially, the Form 397 (which can be viewed here) is like the Form 396 filed by stations in connection with their license renewal applications. After providing identifying information, the form requires that station licensees identify a person who is responsible for EEO compliance at the station, and to attach their last two EEO Public Inspection File Reports – the most recent of which will, for stations in these states, need to be placed in the public inspection file by June 1. These Public Inspection File reports can be reviewed by the FCC to assess the hiring efforts made by the broadcaster for job openings in the last two years to insure that the station’s outreach efforts to prospective new employees were sufficiently broad to attract applicants from all significant groups within the station’s service area. We wrote about the basics of the FCC’s EEO policies for broadcasters here.
Continue Reading FCC Issues Reminder on Form 397 EEO Mid-Term Reports – Filing Obligations Begin on June 1 for Radio Stations in DC, Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia

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

A new year, and a new set of regulatory obligations and deadlines for broadcasters and others.  To help track many of the important deadlines for broadcasters in the new year, we have put together a Broadcaster’s Calendar of important regulatory dates for 2015, available here, which highlights many of the dates for the regulatory obligations of broadcasters in 2015.  While not exhaustive, and subject to change, the calendar sets out the regular regulatory dates for broadcasters (e.g. Quarterly Issues Programs lists, Children’s Television Reports, EEO public inspection file reports, reg fee obligations, etc.).  It also highlights dates that don’t necessarily occur every year – like this year’s obligation for commercial broadcasters to file Biennial Ownership Reports.  While the license renewal cycle for TV concludes this year, Mid-Term EEO report obligations (FCC Form 397) for radio stations in the states that were the first to file their renewals in the last radio license renewal cycle (those in the DC area and in the southeast) kick in mid-year for radio employment units with more than 10 full-time employees.  The calendar also lists January dates for webcasters to file various elections (including elections to be treated as a “small broadcaster” which, for broadcasters who stream their stations online but have a very small audience, can lessen payment and reporting obligations).  There are even a few lowest unit rate windows listed for states that have announced state and local elections (and are many other states holding such elections that we were not able to determine dates – so check those locally.

Some of the important January regulatory dates include the obligation of all broadcasters, by the 10th of the month, to have their Quarterly Issues Programs lists in their public file.  TV stations should also place their certifications as to compliance with children’s television commercial limits in their files by that date.  By the 12th (as the 10th is a weekend day), television stations must also submit to the FCC their Form 398 Children’s Television Programming Reports that report on educational and informational programming directed to children. 
Continue Reading A Broadcaster’s Regulatory Calendar for 2015, Plus Important Regulatory Deadlines for January Including Incentive Auction and Captioning Comments

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

Are you ready to file your next license renewal application?  It seems like the last license renewal cycle just ended (in fact, the last cycle is not over, as evidenced by the fact that the FCC in the last week has released several decisions dealing with late-filed renewals from the last cycle, and many TV stations still have license renewals that have not been granted due to pending indecency issues).  Nevertheless, a whole new cycle of Form 303 license renewal applications will soon be upon us – beginning in less than a year. The cycle begins with radio stations in Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia, who are due to file their license renewal applications on June 1, 2011.  Then, every two months thereafter, stations in another group of states files applications, until April 1, 2014 when radio stations in Pennsylvania and Delaware bring the radio renewal cycle to a close.  Television station renewal applications will be due on a state-by-state basis beginning one year later – starting with TVs in DC and the same three states in 2012.  A schedule for the radio renewal filings is available here.  With these deadlines almost upon us, what should stations be doing now to get ready? 

In the last renewal cycle, the biggest source of problems dealt with public file issues.  Remember, stations need to certify in their renewal applications that their public file is complete and accurate and, if it is not, to specify areas where there are deficiencies.  In the last cycle, many stations in particular had issues with Quarterly Programs Issues Lists that were missing from the files, in many cases incurring fines of $10,000 or more where there were many such reports missing from the files.  These reports are also very important, as they are the only required official records to demonstrate the programming that a station broadcast to serve the public interest needs of its service area.  If that service is ever challenged, you will need the reports to demonstrate how your station’s programming met the needs and interests of your city of license and the surrounding area.  Check out our last advisory on the Quarterly Programs Issues Lists, here.

Continue Reading FCC License Renewal Application Cycle Begins in Less Than A Year – What Stations Should Be Doing to Get Ready

June 1st marks the deadline for two FCC EEO requirements.  First, by June 1st, radio and television stations located in Arizona, the District of Columbia, Idaho, Maryland, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, Ohio, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming, must prepare their Annual EEO Public File Reports.  Specifically, stations or Station Employment