The FCC this week announced its next EEO audit – one limited to only 69 radio stations. No television stations or cable systems were included in the audit notice. Wilkinson Barker Knauer partner David Oxenford notes that responses to the audit are due August 6, and shared tips on what to do if any station in your cluster is on the list of audited stations.
“Unlike the last audit, the responses will be sent to the FCC’s EEO division, not posted solely on the station’s online public file,” Oxenford says. “Stations, of course, still have the obligation to post their response on the online public file, but they also have to submit the audit to the FCC.”
If any station in your cluster is on the list of audited stations, Oxenford notes that 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.
If that cluster has five or more full-time employees, it must observe the FCC’s EEO requirements and respond to this audit, providing significant information about its hiring in the last two years.
Stations with fewer than five employees need provide only limited information about the positions of its employees and whether the station has been subject to any federal or state EEO complaints or legal actions.
If a station that is being audited is involved in an LMA or time brokerage agreement with another broadcaster, the audit may require that the broker provide employment information as well as the licensee, he notes. “There are some exceptions where stations can be excused from the audit if they were recently renewed or audited.”
Oxenford implores that one take care in responding to the EEO audit, as the FCC will be reviewing it carefully, and issues with the audit can lead to fines.
“Even though the FCC has allowed online recruiting to be the sole method in which a station recruits new employees, if a station does not keep the required paperwork and submit it in response to the audit, the station can still be fined by the FCC,” Oxenford warns. “Check the audit list twice to see if your station is on it, and if it is, take time and answer carefully.”