FCC Levies Fines For EEO Violations

Posted on December 31st, 2014 by

It has been awhile, but the FCC has just issued a few fines against broadcasters for failing to follow the EEO broad outreach regulations when recruiting for a job vacancy. Each case involved EEO reviews in connection with renewal applications filed in 2011 in some of the first states to begin the radio renewal cycle. So these two decisions may be the first of several more to come.

The decisions do not reveal anything new in how the FCC interprets its EEO regulations, but they provide good reminders. Like most FCC EEO fines, the offenders are large, multi-station owners and the station employment unit consisted of several stations. The station owners were therefore required to carry out the full complement of broad outreach to satisfy the requirements, including the need to conduct broad outreach for each full-time vacancy.

In one of the cases, the station owner used internet and word-of-mouth to fill the vacancy. The FCC fined them for doing so, repeating its prior holding that “relying solely on job postings on its website, on the licensee’s own private contacts, such as word-of-mouth referrals, and or walk-in applicants, does not constitute recruitment as contemplated

Under the Commission’s Rules, which require public outreach.” To avoid running afoul of this policy, placing an ad in a non-Internet publication can be the answer.

Perhaps the worst part of an FCC EEO enforcement action is the now almost standard imposition of reporting obligations that extend not only to the present owner of the station, but also to any future owner. That can hurt your station value (not to mention the need to be hyper-vigilant during the reporting period to avoid a new error).

In addition to reviewing EEO compliance at license renewal, the FCC also does so via random audits of at least 5% of broadcast stations every year.