NAB 2009: EEO, Localism Issues Dominate FCC Panel

Commission's audit is in progress
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LAS VEGAS: The FCC is in the midst of an EEO audit, where it randomly selects stations to investigate more thoroughly.

“We want you to keep records,” said Roy Stewart, senior deputy bureau chief of the FCC's Media Bureau. The commission's goal in its EEO rules is to give broadcasters flexibility, he said, adding that the agency is interested in seeing how stations advertise jobs.

While most broadcasters obey the rules, some do not. In January, the commission issued fines ranging from $7,000 to $20,000 for not having EEO information in their public files.

Attorney Dawn Sciarrino of Sciarrino & Shubert said she sees stations that are complying with EEO rules, but not saving all the paperwork they should.

Panelist Ben Downs, vice president and general manager of Texas-based Bryan Broadcasting, believes broadcasters are being held to a higher standard on EEO than are other industries; he said broadcasters are being penalized for making a mistake on procedural paperwork and “we’ve not done anything wrong.”

Downs also addressed the pending localism rulemaking in which the commission has proposed bringing back the ban on unattended operations and the re-establishment of community program advisory boards.

Noting that he realizes the FCC wants to get rid of bad broadcasters, Downs said not all stations program the same way. “We shouldn’t get a list from the FCC to tell us how we should be programming the station,” Downs said.

Stewart said the item doesn't say all of the proposals “will” happen, but that the agency is asking questions.

Frank Jazzo of Fletcher, Heald & Hildreth disagreed, telling Stewart the localism item says in several places that the commission has made preliminary assumptions.

Towards the end of the session panelists discussed the proposed FM IBOC power increase. FCC Office of Engineering and Technology Deputy Chief Alan Stillwell said, “The short answer is that, ‘it's still cooking.’”

“It’s something we have to be careful about,” Stillwell said.

The commission has to be sure that allowing stations to increase their digital power doesn't negatively impact the analog signal of their neighbors. – Radio World’s Leslie Stimson for NAB Show Daily News (©NAB)