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FCC Repeals Mid-Term EEO Report Amid Calls to Hike Enforcement

- EEO Audit, Compliance System Slated for Review in 90 Days

The FCC last week repealed the rule requiring larger Radio and Television stations to submit Form 397, the EEO Mid-Term Report, midway during their license terms because regulators already have immediate access to the information requested by that report in a station’s online public file.

The change, which takes effect May 1, will require Radio station employment groups to indicate when uploading their Annual EEO Public File Reports whether they have 11 or more full-time employees, the trigger for requiring an EEO mid-term review for Radio.

The rules are different for TV stations.

“Because TV licensees are subjected to EEO mid-term reviews when the station employment unit only has five or more full-time employees – the same number that triggers the requirement to file Annual EEO Public File Reports – the FCC deemed such a requirement for TV licensees unnecessary,” said TAB’s FCC legal counsel Scott Flick with Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman.

EEO Audits, Enforcement Review
Both Democratic commissioners, Jessica Rosenworcel and Geoffrey Starks, concurred with their Republican counterparts in approving the repeal of Form 397. But they also criticized the ongoing media regulation modernization effort championed by Chairman Ajit Pai for failing to focus on the agency’s rules for reviewing broadcast licensees’ ownership diversity and EEO practices.

“A proceeding to address data related to this effort has been kicking around these halls for a decade and a half,” Rosenworcel said. “Only at my request – along with that of my current colleague Commissioner Starks – do we have a promise to do this another day. Down the road. In yet another rulemaking, three months hence.”

For his part, Starks noted that EEO data collection has stalled since the current rules were revised in 2004 “because the Commission has left unresolved a single, narrow question about whether that collection should be confidential.”

“Because we failed to follow through on that commitment to collect workforce diversity data, our ability to better understand the landscape of our media workforce remains stunted,” Starks said.

Noting public comments expressing concern over the degree to which the FCC has addressed “word-of-mouth recruiting” within the broadcast industry, the Commission in its Further Notice will seek comment on the FCC’s track record on EEO enforcement and how the agency can make improvements to EEO compliance and enforcement.

Questions? Contact TAB’s Oscar Rodriguez or call (512) 322-9944.

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