In March 2018, the FCC proposed eliminating the Equal Employment Opportunity Mid-Term Report (also known as Form 397) and now those wishing to voice their opinions can do so until April 30. As we’ve discussed before, this is part of the FCC’s ongoing Modernization of Media Regulation Initiative (spearheaded by Chairman Pai). Currently, Form 397 is intended to provide the FCC with information about a broadcast station’s employment practices at the midpoint of the station’s eight-year license term. The form consists of a very brief cover portion and attachment of the station’s last two EEO Public File Reports. Form 397 currently must be filed by TV stations with five or more-full-time employees and radio stations with 11 or more full-time employees (smaller station employment units may file the Form to confirm their smaller size but are not required to do so).
The FCC, and those advocating for the elimination of Form 397, argue that it is redundant and is becoming, “unnecessary and unduly burdensome, and most of the information it contains is otherwise available to the Commission.” Organizations such as the National Association of Broadcasters have voiced their support for the elimination of Form 397 with the advent of the Online Public Inspection File. Due to a statutory mandate, the Commission will still be required to conduct a mid-term review of all station employment units that would have been required to file the Form 397. Without the Form 397, however, the Commission recognized that there would no longer be a single place where it could determine which stations were subject to such reviews. Thus, by seeking comment on the proposal, the FCC is also looking to the public on suggested ways they could track this information, such as adding a requirement that this information appear in a station’s annual EEO Public File Report or be entered elsewhere in the online public file.
The proposal was published in the Federal Register this week. Comments can be filed until April 30 with reply comments due by May 15. If you wish to submit a comment and need assistance, contact us at 703-812-0400.