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.
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.
If any station in your cluster is on the list, all stations in that “station employment unit” (a group of commonly owned stations serving the same area with at least one common employee) must respond. But, if a cluster has been audited in 2014 or 2015, or if its renewal was granted in the last 18 months, the FCC may allow you to avoid responding to this audit - but you have to request that “pass” from the FCC. If a station that is being audited is involved in an LMA with another broadcaster, the audit may require that the broker provide employment information as well as the licensee.
All stations should review the audit letter as it provides a good outline of the documents that stations should be retaining to demonstrate their compliance with the FCC’s EEO rules. For more information about compliance with the EEO rules, see our post about an EEO webinar in which I participated, held by the FCC in early 2012 to explain its EEO rules. Also, you can find a link to a presentation that I did just a few months ago on the EEO rules for broadcasters, here. You may also want to review the last set of fines for EEO violations that were released a bit over a year ago, about which we wrote here.