In three recent cases, the FCC revisited the issue of broadcast contest rules – fining stations for not following the rules that they set out for on-air contests, and reiterating that the full rules of any contest need to be aired on the station (see our previous post on this issue here). The most recent case also made clear that a broadcast station’s contests that may be primarily conducted on its web site are still subject to the FCC’s rules if any mention of the contest is made on the broadcast station. Thus, even though the contest itself may be conducted on the website, with entries being made there and prizes being first announced on the site, if the station uses its broadcast signal to direct people to the site to participate in the contest or otherwise promote it, the broadcaster must announce all of the rules on the air.
In one case, a listener called a station with what she believed to be the correct answer to a question that needed to be answered to win a prize. The listener gave the answer, only to be asked a second unexpected question that she did not answer correctly. The next day, she heard another listener call in, answer the original question in the same way that she did – and win the prize without ever even being asked the second question. When the first listener complained, station employees agreed that the second question was not part of the rules, but did nothing to correct their mistake until after the listener filed her complaint with the FCC. The Commission fined the station $4000 for failing to follow the contest rules and for failing to fully publicize all of the material terms of the contest on the air.