A handful of Cumulus Media stations in South Carolina have been called out for allegedly violating Equal Employment Opportunity rules, according to the Media Bureau.
The proposed fine for violations in this case: $20,000.
According to the bureau, five stations in South Carolina “willfully and repeatedly violated the [Federal Communications Commission’s] equal employment opportunity rules” by failing to comply with the FCC rules in several ways: recruitment, self-assessment, record-keeping, reporting and public file requirements.
Those five stations include the FM stations WDAI in Pawleys Island, WSYN in Surfside Beach, WSEA in Atlantic Beach and WLFF in Conway, as well as the AM station WHSC in Conway. The FCC found that these Cumulus stations were allegedly out of compliance with some part of the following six FCC rules:
● Using a recruitment source for each full-time vacancy
● Working with outside employment organizations that distribute employment info
● Retaining records that document the total number of interviewees and referral sources
● Including the number of interviewees (and how many of each were referred by a recruitment source) in its public file report
● Analyzing its recruitment program on an ongoing basis and making changes as necessary
● Including certain EEO-related materials in its public inspection file
Cumulus Licensing LLC apparently knew that an audit was on its way; in March 2011, the Media Bureau notified Cumulus that these stations were being randomly selected for an audit of its EEO program. The two public file reports in question are August 2008 through July 2009 and then August 2009 through July 2010.
As a start, the Media Bureau found that Cumulus apparently did not use recruitment sources for three of the five full-time hires listed in the report. For one of the remaining two full-time hires, the FCC said, Cumulus used word-of-mouth as the only recruitment source. The 2009–2010 report similarly lists word-of-mouth referral as the sole recruitment source for two of the six full-time hires listed in that second 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 bureau said, noting that Cumulus failed to recruit for six of its 11 full-time vacancies over a two-year period.
The Media Bureau also found that Cumulus did not notify a recruitment source — specifically the Ohio Center for Broadcasting — of seven of its 11 full-time hires during this two year period.
Cumulus also allegedly failed to retain records of the number and source of its interviews for 10 of the 11 full-time vacancies. In its defense, Cumulus told the FCC that proper documentation had been removed without authorization. It also noted that it lost the majority of records related to recruitment after the dismissal of the unit’s business manager in November 2010.
Even though Cumulus provided an explanation for its inability to produce the required records, the bureau said, “This does not excuse it from having violated our rules.”
Since Cumulus allegedly failed to maintain records of the number of interviewees or referral sources of each interview, the bureau said, both its EEO public file report and public inspection files were incomplete.
As a result, Cumulus was also unable to adequately analyze that its recruitment program was operating effectively, the bureau said.
In looking to assess a forfeiture, the bureau found that the most significant alleged violation — housed within Section 73.2080(c)(1) of the FCC Rules, which requires a licensee to use recruitment sources for each full-time vacancy — to be the most significant. As a result, the bureau proposed a $6,000 fine for this alleged violation. It also proposed a forfeiture of $2,000 for each of the other five rules that Cumulus allegedly violated during the reporting periods.
Then, the bureau proposed an additional $4,000 fine on top of the original $16,000 due to a history of violations relating to the EEO rules, the bureau said.
Pointing to two previous decisions, the bureau found that Cumulus licensees had allegedly committed several EEO violations — one involving record-keeping deficiencies and the other involving recruiting, record-keeping and reporting violations.
“Despite these prior findings, Cumulus continued violating EEO rules even after they were issued,” the bureau said. This history of prior offenses led the bureau to slap Cumulus with an additional $4,000 fine for a total of $20,000.
To help deter future violations, the bureau said, it also imposed a series of reporting conditions on those Cumulus stations. Those stations must now submit annual reports for three years starting September 2018, provide dated copies of all communications announcing each full-time vacancy, and offer a list of sources contacted for each full-time opening, among other requirements.
“These conditions are designed to ensure that Cumulus … maintain[s] an adequate EEO program in compliance with the rules,” the bureau said.
The bureau has given Cumulus 30 days to pay the full amount. Or, within 30 days, Cumulus must offer evidence in writing as to why the proposed fine should be reduced.