Refined studio staffing requirement
Oct 1, 2000 12:00 PM, Harry Martin
The FCC recently made clear that a station being operated under a local marketing agreement (LMA) may meet its staffing requirements by employing individuals who are also full-time employees of another co-located station unrelated to the broker. This provides an efficient means to staff a station that leases main studio space from a station other than the broker. Several requirements must be met under an LMA.
Main Studio Rule. Every station, whether or not it operates under an LMA, must maintain a main studio. The studio must be equipped so that it is capable of originating programming for broadcast on the station at any time with the mere flip of a switch. This is true even if it is anticipated that all of the station's programming will actually originate elsewhere. Proper transmitter control and EAS facilities must be in place. The main studio must have a telephone number that is local or toll-free to all residents of the station's community of license. The station's public file must be kept at the main studio.
In addition, each main studio must be staffed with at least two full-time employees. One of the two employees must be managerial. The managerial employee must be based at the main studio and spend at least part of each day there. Alternatively, a station may employ two or more part-time managerial employees whose combined hours provide a full-time managerial presence at the main studio. The non-managerial, or staff, employee may be shared with another employer if the employee is present full-time at the main studio and has adequate time to handle his or her tasks for the station.
The LMA Context. The FCC previously ruled that the managerial employee of an LMA station could not also work for the broker. The FCC has now clarified that the managerial employee may simultaneously serve as full-time manager of other co-located stations not related to the broker. The FCC further stated that its rules require only that a station have employees present full-time at its main studio.
The New Case. In a recent case, an LMA station hired as its own full-time employees two individuals who also worked full-time for a station unrelated to the broker. The LMA station leased its own main studio space in the other station's studio building. The LMA station maintained a separate telephone line, but the employees performed their tasks for both stations from the same office space. One individual was a manager and the other was a non-managerial staff person. Both already worked full-time at the unrelated station. For the LMA station, they took on the minimal managerial and staff tasks typical for stations involved in LMAs, including the production of local programming and preparation of local PSAs. In connection with those tasks, the employees reported directly to the owner of the LMA station. They were paid an additional salary by the LMA station. In the face of arguments to the contrary made by a competitor and the FCC's Mass Media Bureau, the FCC ruled that this arrangement complied with its LMA staffing requirements. The key exculpating factor was the presence of the LMA station's employees at the main studio rather than how much time they actually spent doing the station's business.
More FCC Fines Indecent Material. A Spanish language radio station recently aired a morning show segment involving material that the FCC found indecent. After translating a tape recording of the call-in segment from Spanish to English, the FCC concluded that the broadcast contained language that described sexual activities or organs in patently offensive terms and levied a $7,000 fine. Most of the allegedly offensive dialog was spoken by the call-in guest and not the radio personality. However, this had no bearing on the determination that indecent material was broadcast.
EAS, Emissions Testing, Public File. A Florida AM station was initially fined $20,000 for failing to install an EAS system, failing to perform annual emissions measurements and failing to keep an updated public inspection file. Based on a complaint, an FCC inspector determined that no EAS equipment had been installed, that no annual equipment performance measurements had been made (FCC rules require annual testing with a signed and dated record of test results) and that the public inspection file had not been updated. The fine was reduced to $5,000 based on the station's documented financial problems.
Junk Faxes. The 21 superscript st Century counterpart to junk mail, the junk fax, is illegal. Since the passage of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act in the 90's, federal law has prohibited the transmission of unsolicited advertisements by fax. The FCC recently fined a furniture store $230,000 for violating this law by faxing advertisements to consumers. The fine was calculated at $10,000 each for 14 recipients who specifically asked that the faxes be stopped and $4,500 for 20 recipients who had not requested the faxes but were targeted in the advertising campaign. In similar cases, the FCC recently fined a travel agency $85,500 and a marketing company $47,000 for junk fax violations. Stations are cautioned not to send faxes of advertisements to consumers unless they are requested, and if they are receiving unwanted advertising faxes, they may contact the FCC's Consumer Complaints Office at Mail Stop 1600A2, Washington, DC 20554.