Now is probably not the time for Cumulus Media to be handing over $20,000 to the FCC.
However, that’s likely set to happen — pending a successful appeal or reduction of the penalty — thanks to the Media Bureau’s issuance late Monday (12/11) of a Notice of Apparent Liability (NAL) for what it calls willful and repeated EEO violations.
The violations were discovered through a random spring 2011 Media Bureau audit of its EEO program.
The NAL was issued to Cumulus’ Myrtle Beach, S. Car., station group — comprised of Class C3 WDAI-FM 98.5 “Kiss FM,” Class C3 WSYN-FM 103.1 “Sunny”, Class C3 WSEA-FM 100.3 “The Team,” Class C2 WLFF-FM “Nash 106.5,” and Class B directional WHSC-AM 1050, a Fox Sports Radio affiliate.
The stations received the NAL after the Bureau ruled that the stations failed to comply with the Commission’s rules on recruitment, self-assessment, record-keeping, and reporting, and failed to meet the FCC’s public file requirement.
Violations of “a number” of the Commission’s EEO rules were found:
- Section 73.2080(c)(1), which requires a licensee to use recruitment sources for each full-time vacancy
- Section 73.2080(c)(1)(ii), which requires a licensee to provide notification of each
vacancy to any organization that distributes information about employment opportunities to job seekers upon request by such organization
- Section 73.2080(c)(5)(v), which requires a licensee to retain records to document the
total number of interviewees for each of its vacancies and the referral source for each
- Section 73.2080(c)(6)(iv), which requires a licensee to include in its public file report
the number of interviewees and the number of interviewees referred by each recruitment source
- Section 73.2080(c)(3), which requires a licensee to analyze the recruitment program for
its employment unit on an ongoing basis to ensure that the program is effective in
achieving broad outreach to potential applicants, and to address any problems found as a result of its analysis
- Section 73.3526(e)(7), which requires a commercial licensee to include certain EEO-related materials in its public inspection file.
According to the Media Bureau’s findings, Cumulus’ 2008-2009 report indicates that it failed to report any recruitment sources for three of the five full-time hires listed in the report. For one of the remaining two full-time hires, Cumulus reports word-of-mouth as the only recruitment source. The 2009-2010 report similarly lists a word-of-mouth referral as the sole recruitment source for two of the six full-time hires listed in the report.
“Relying solely on a licensee’s own private contacts, such as word-of-mouth referrals, does not constitute recruitment under the Commission’s rules, which require public outreach,” the Media Bureau noted in its NAL.
Meanwhile, for both reporting periods Cumulus indicated that Ohio Center for Broadcasting requested notification of full-time vacancies. But, Cumulus’ records show that it failed to notify this source of seven of its 11 full-time hires during the reporting period, starting with its first full-time hires in 2008 and ending with the last two fulltime
hires reported in 2010.
Cumulus failed to retain records of the number or source of its interviewees for 10 of the 11 full-time vacancies during the reporting periods. Both the 2008-2009 and
2009-2010 reports contain a footnote stating that “due to unauthorized removal of documentation from its facilities, this [Station Employment Unit] is unable to fully detail its recruitment efforts as well as interviewee data per vacancy.
Cumulus further reports that it lost the majority of its records relating to recruitment for the reporting periods at issue after the dismissal of the unit’s business manager in November 2010.
The Media Bureau’s response? “Although Cumulus provides an explanation for its inability to produce the required records, this does not excuse it from having violated our rules.”
Why the $20,000 proposed forfeiture amount, rather than a $16,000 fine?
Cumulus, says the Media Bureau, “has a history of violations relating to the EEO rules. In two previous decisions, Cumulus licensees were found to have committed EEO violations, one involving record-keeping deficiencies and the other involving recruiting, record-keeping, and reporting violations.”
The Media Bureau further explains, “Despite these prior findings, Cumulus continued violating EEO rules even after they were issued. Because Cumulus was found to have violated EEO rules on two occasions in two employment units, and now has been found to have violated the EEO rules in yet another unit for another two-year period even after being penalized for prior violations, we find that it has engaged in a “history of prior offenses.”
COMPLIANCE CHECK REQUESTED
In addition to the financial penalty, the five Cumulus stations have been instructed by the Commission to follow the following rules to prevent future violations.
First, Cumulus/Myrtle Beach must submit to the Bureau’s EEO Staff annual reports for three years starting on Sept. 4, 2018, that include the following:
- the unit’s most recent EEO public file report
- dated copies of all advertisements, bulletins, letters, faxes, e-mails, or other communications announcing each full-time vacancy for the preceding reporting year
- the recruitment source that referred the hiree for each full-time vacancy, the job title of each full-time vacancy filled, and the date each fulltime vacancy was filled
- a list of all sources that requested job notifications from the employment unit for jobs posted during the reporting periods listed below
- the total number of interviewees for each full-time vacancy for the preceding reporting year and the referral source for each interviewee
- the sources contacted for each full-time opening during the reporting year.
The Media Bureau NAL comes at a delicate time for Cumulus, which is in the beginning stages of a Chapter 11 restructuring plan designed to eliminate some $1 billion of its $2 billion-plus debt.
The violations were conducted while co-founder Lew Dickey Jr. was still CEO of Cumulus Media.