The Sacramento radio contest gone wrong, which led to the death of a contestant, will apparently not lead to any criminal liability for the station or its employees, according to press reports including one in the San Francisco Chronicle, here. However, as the standards for a criminal prosecution are higher than those for a finding of civil liability, this may not be the last that we hear about this contest. A complaint is also pending before the FCC about the matter.
We wrote about some of the problems that can arise with contests, here. Stations should be careful planning and executing any contest. A company planning a contest should research state law, to be sure that everything is being done is in compliance with all local requirements, and any necessary registrations are filed or local permits obtained. The rules of the contest must be spelled out, anticipating every eventuality to the extent possible, carefully followed, and publicized (including the requirement for FCC licensees that the principal rules be broadcast on air – see our post here). And, of course, try to anticipate the participants’ possible actions while trying to participate, and avoid situations where the contest could create any dangerous situations. In this day and age, there is much to consider in planning a simple contest in a manner that avoids potential liability.