The Los Angeles Nielsen PPM ratings were delayed for over a week, all because a media-affiliated household took part in the Los Angeles sample. In other words, a radio station employee likely did something that was against the better interests of his or her employer.
Every industry has unique aspects in which employee misjudgment can cause headaches for the employer and possibly even the industry. The automobile industry is currently embroiled in federal safety proceedings because of an ignition switch issue which was apparently well known within the manufacturer. In our radio industry, an employee was just terminated for apparently failing to report to its employer that he or she was related to a Nielsen Audio sample participant.
Rather than re-stating the obvious about the Nielsen Audio issue, let’s take a quick look at some of the other unique and often stupid things employees in our radio industry can do to harm an employer, the industry and themselves.
The FCC has a grab-bag of regulatory requirements it expects that licensees, and its employees, will be aware of. While a full listing would fill a book, let’s look at a few of the unique ways radio station employees can keep radio station managers awake at night.
The local public file has to be near the top of the list. If someone requests to see the local public file, do your personnel know where the local public file is located? Do they know that the local public file must be available during business hours, without an appointment, to any requestor, and no one should be told to come back when the manager is there? Do your employees reliably compile the quarterly issues/programs list, and put it into the local public file, no later than each January 10th, April 10th, July 10th and October 10th?
FCC EEO compliance is also near the top of the list. EEO non-compliance can generate large fines or worse for employment units with five or more full-time employees. Do your employees responsible for hiring know that FCC EEO recruitment procedures must take place for each full-time hire or promotion? Have your managers recently reviewed your employment unit’s EEO outreach to confirm that employment vacancy information is being distributed to diverse sources, that such sources are actually sending interviewees for openings, and that your employment unit is not simply relying upon internet outreach, radio ads or word of mouth? Is a link to your most recent EEO Annual Public File Report somewhere on your website’s home page?
Radio station towers and other technical matters are a safety-of-life issue with the FCC. Compliance with FCC rules is taken seriously. Do your technical employees know that tower gates should never be left unlocked? Do your employees timely notify the FAA of any tower light outages? Does your engineer take seriously FCC tower painting requirements and is AM tower fencing in good repair? Are all your air personnel aware of EAS responsibilities and compliance? Is your AM station changing patterns and powers as required?
The internet, while not unique to radio stations, brings its own set of headaches. Are employees who create and post content for station websites aware that most photographs available on the web are copyrighted and consent must be obtained for use? Are your employees generally obtaining releases for photos taken and audio content produced that may be used as part of station promotions? Are your domain names registered to your business entity, and not simply under the technical and administrative control of one techie who may or may not still be your employee? Are you sure that the radio station owns the creative content on the website, and not the individual creating the content?
No listing such as this would be complete without indicting air personalities. Do your air personalities have at least a passing appreciation of what constitutes libel and slander? Are your managers fully aware of any contests or promotions that may be created by your air personalities? Are the FCC’s contest rule requirements being followed even if only for a pair of tickets to a local show?
Do your more edgy air personalities understand why Howard Stern is no longer on terrestrial radio, and that prior to leaving he left behind a very large trail of FCC fines? If you are running non-English programming, do your air personalities understand it is not OK to curse or tell off-color jokes on the air in the mistaken belief that the FCC cannot understand them? If your jocks do telephone call-out bits, do they know it is not OK to broadcast a telephone conversation, or record it for later broadcast, without first informing the called party that he or she is doing so? Are hoaxes and the like cleared with management first, no matter how much it ruins spontaneity? And finally, does your air staff understand that anything given to them by a third party in exchange for programming is either payola or plugola absent a sponsorship identification, and that the FCC still takes payola and plugola very seriously?
This is by no means a complete list. Creative employees can come up with any number of ways to unwittingly create nightmares for a licensee and its managers. But many issues can be avoided through timely questions to management. Just think how differently the LA ratings data issue would have played out for the now-fired employee if that employee has simply said to management months ago, “I think one of my family members is signed up by Nielsen Audio as a PPM participant …”.