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.
The EEO public inspection file reports must be available on the station’s website as well as in its public file. While only the most recent report needs to be on the station’s website, all of the annual reports from the renewal term should be kept in the public file of the station (including the online public file of TV stations) until the renewal is granted and has become final. A renewal grant becomes final after 40 days have passed after the FCC’s public notice of the grant if no appeals, petitions for reconsideration or actions by the FCC to review the grant have been taken.
We wrote about the FCC’s EEO outreach effort requirements here, and more information is available on the slides from the presentation, here. Be careful observing these rules, as the FCC is paying careful attention to the conduct of broadcasters in this area through audits, Mid-Term reports, and other enforcement actions.