Beginning in June, radio stations with 11 or more full-time employees will have to file the new FCC Form 397 Broadcast Mid-Term Report, which will provide the commission with information about each reporting licensee's on-going EEO efforts. As shown in the schedule below, Form 397 is due on June 1 for radio stations in D.C., Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia, with stations in other states following suit every other month in the order of the anniversary dates of their renewal application filings.
The requirement for a mid-term EEO report was put into place in 2002, when the FCC last revised its EEO rules and policies, and is intended to provide the commission with an accounting, four years after renewal filing, of each licensee's EEO compliance. Here's a summary of what has to be done.
What must be filed? The new Form 397 has not yet been released. A draft version of the form was prepared in 2002. It requires the standard identifying information about the licensee filing the form (name, address, station list). If the licensee is subject to the full filing requirement, copies of the licensee's two most recent annual EEO reports as placed in the stations' local public inspection file, must be attached.
When must it be filed? The schedule for filing Form 397 is based on the staggered schedule for filing renewal applications. Thus, the schedule for 2007 and 2008 is as shown at the right.
Who must file? Only employment units with 11 or more full-time employees will have to submit Form 397 (together with copies of their annual EEO reports taken from their public files). Smaller stations (stations with fewer than 11) appear to be exempt from the filing requirement, although once the final version of the form is adopted it is possible smaller stations will have to file a Form 397 just to claim the exemption.
The FCC will be examining each Form 397 to determine whether the licensee has been complying with the rules. Any non-compliant broadcasters will be contacted by the FCC, and if the non-compliance is significant enough, the commission will consider issuing a forfeiture notice.
Availability of Form 397
The revised Form 397, as of this writing, is still awaiting approval by the Office of Management and Budget, and is expected to be available electronically in April or May, which would be in time for the initial June 1 deadline.
This new filing requirement should be routine for most stations. As long as the licensee has been preparing its annual EEO public file reports -- a requirement for all stations that have five or more full-time employees -- and those reports indicate that EEO-sensitive recruitment procedures have been followed except in extraordinary situations, no compliance issues should arise.
Martin is a past president of the Federal Communications Bar Association and a member of Fletcher, Heald & Hildreth, Arlington, VA. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Radio stations in Texas must file their biennial ownership reports on or before April 2, 2007.
Also on April 2, radio stations in Delaware, Indiana, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Texas must place their 2007 EEO reports in their public files and place them on their websites.
All radio stations must place their first quarter issues and programs lists in their public files by April 10.
Form 397 filing schedule
June 1: D.C., Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia
August 1: North Carolina, South Carolina
December 1: Florida, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands
February 1, 2008: Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi
April 1, 2008: Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee
June 1, 2008: Michigan, Ohio
August 1, 2008: Illinois, Wisconsin
December 1, 2008: Colorado, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota