Last week, we wrote an article which received much attention, addressing the legal issues that could come up if contests are not conducted properly. One issue that we did not anticipate was reflected in an FCC order released yesterday, designating for hearing the license renewal of the Entercom Sacramento radio station that was involved in the “Hold Your Wee For Wii” contest that led to the death of a contestant. “Designation for hearing” means that an FCC Judge will essentially conduct a trial to determine if the contest reflected so badly on the licensee that the station’s license renewal should be denied. The FCC’s order (available here) goes into great detail reciting the specific conduct that it found to be offensive – essentially setting out the case for the prosecution for the upcoming trial before the administrative law judge. It is worth reading.
This appears to be a unique case where the FCC has turned a case of negligence – usually resolved through a lawsuit in civil courts – into a violation of the general obligation of a station to operate in the public interest. There is sure to be much more to the story as the proceeding continues. But, as we warned last week, be sure to conduct your contests carefully, as this proceeding, no matter how it is decided, shows that there can be unexpected consequences from unanticipated events that occur during the course of a contest.