Last week, I participated in an FCC-sponsored webinar to discuss its EEO rules. Along with two other private firm lawyers, the chief of the FCC’s Office that administers its EEO rules and one of his senior staff members participated on a panel to discuss the legal obligations of broadcasters and MVPDs in meeting the EEO rules. The panel, which lasted almost two hours, was a very thorough discussion of the requirements of the FCC rules. It provided insight into how the FCC identifies problems, and even suggested some ideas as to how broadcasters can assure compliance with the requirements in the easiest way possible. While lengthy, the webinar, which is archived on the FCC’s website, is worth viewing to get a very good summary of the FCC rules. If a station or MVPD has its management employees and others with hiring responsibility sit down and watch the video, and use it as part of a training program for management employees on EEO matters, it may even count as one of the non-job specific supplemental outreach initiatives that the FCC requires each entity subject to the EEO rules to conduct.
We wrote last week about a recent set of FCC fines to two broadcasters that had not widely disseminated information about all of their job openings – relying instead on only a combination of internal sources (word-of-mouth, station websites, intra-company referrals) and Internet websites for their outreach efforts for a substantial number of job openings. At the webinar, the FCC officials said that there were a number of other enforcement actions in the pipeline that should be public soon. The FCC is reviewing every license renewal application that is filed with the FCC to determine if its accompanying Form 396 provides information necessary to demonstrate compliance with the three prongs of the FCC’s EEO program – wide dissemination for all job openings, notice of job openings to community groups that request such notice, and non-vacancy specific initiatives that are designed to educate a community about the nature and requirements of broadcast jobs. Stations are also reviewed when the FCC conducts random audits (5% of all stations and MVPDs are supposed to be audited annually) and when complaints or other information comes to the attention of the FCC staff. Staff members remarked that they have even called stations to discuss issues when visiting a station website for personal reasons and noting the absence of the most recent Annual EEO Public File Report that needs to be posted on a station website on the anniversary date of the filing of the license renewal applications for stations in the state of the station’s city of license.