FCC Proposes Fining Maryland Noncoms for EEO Violation

The FCC has proposed fining the Maryland Public Broadcasting Commission, licensee of five Maryland noncommercial stations, $20,000 for EEO violations and misleading the commission, though with no finding that it was intentionally misled. It could have levied a much heavier fine.

In a notice of apparent liability, the FCC's Media Bureau said that the commission had "apparently willfully and repeatedly" violated its EEO rules by not notifying job referral entities of vacancies, by not doing a self-assessment of its EEO performance, as required, and by "providing incorrect factual information of a material nature to the Commission without a reasonable basis for believing that the information was correct and accurate."

The FCC alleges that from June 2008 through May 2010, the station filled 11 full-time vacancies without providing notification to an organization, CSB School of Broadcasting, that was on file requesting that info. The fact that it happened 11 times suggested a continuing lack of assessment said the FCC. The station also asserted to the FCC that it had not received any requests from any organizations for copies of job announcements when its EEO public file report lists such an organization and says it was notified of all vacancies.

The Maryland Public Broadcasting Commission (MPBC) explained that CSB had contacted the stations' employment manager to request the notification, but that the stations had not sent them because that managers' position was eliminated. It also pointed out that CSB's was the only request made over that 24-month period.

The FCC concluded that had MPBC exercised "even minimal diligence," it would not have claimed to make the notices available when it didn't.

The base fine for misleading the FCC is $37,500 alone, but the commission said that since there was no evidence the misleading was intentional, and PBC provided the correct information prior to any formal FCC action, it would impose a lesser fine--$17,000, plus $3,000 for the actual reporting violation and failure to self-assess.

MPBC can appeal the decision, and will.

"We believe it was an overreaction to a minor clerical error and we are appealing the notice," said Andrew Levine, general counsel of Maryland Public Television.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.