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Broadcast Housekeeping Duties a Focus at February FCC Meeting

Agency to consider changes to EEO reporting and paper contract filing

There are two items on Federal Communications Commission’s February agenda that, if passed, may impact broadcaster’s housekeeping efforts in the years to come.

One saves some filing duties: it proposes to nix a specific form that broadcasters are required to file about their EEO practices. The other saves a stamp: it proposes to eliminate the need to mail in paper contracts to the FCC.

Both are up for debate at the FCC’s February meeting, scheduled for the 22nd.

In a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, the commission is considering revising regulations so that broadcasters will no longer be required to fill out a certain form and submit the report as part of the mid-term review of their employment practices.

As it stands today, around the midpoint of a broadcasters’ eight-year license term, FCC staff reviews the equal employment opportunity practices for those radio stations with 11 or more full-time employees (and TV stations with five or more ). After the review, FCC staff then informs licensees if any improvements should be made in recruitment practices to ensure that they are in compliance with the commission’s EEO rules.

Stations have been required to submit Form 397, which asks for an EEO contact at the station as well as details like the number of full-time staffers. Most of this information is also available in a stations’ public inspection file, and stations are required to place completed report — the form and several EEO files — in its public file and on its website.

Now the commission is proposing to eliminate this midterm report since nearly all the information is available in a stations’ public inspection file. The goal in eliminating this filing requirement is to reduce unneeded regulatory burdens.

“In the digital era, it doesn’t make much sense to require someone to file what you can already access online,” Chairman Ajit Pai said in his most recent blog.

What stays in place, however, is the requirement that stations have a midterm review of their EEO practices.

The commission will also consider a separate Report and Order that would eliminate the requirement that certain broadcast and cable companies maintain paper copies of commission rules.

As it stands today, stations either must mail or hand deliver paper copies of certain contracts and documents that relate to ownership to the FCC. The changes being considered would eliminate that paper requirement altogether, and instead broadcasters would be required to deliver copies of these documents on request or ensure they are accessible through the station’s public file. That order can be found here and the agenda for the February meeting can be found here.