contest material terms

Here are some of the regulatory and legal actions of the last week of significance to broadcasters, with links to where you can go to find more information as to how these actions may affect your operations.

  • FCC fines against two radio stations serve as a reminder that station managers need to pay close attention

The FCC’s new contest rules for broadcasters, allowing the disclosure of material terms on the Internet rather than reading them on the air, becomes effective upon the publication in the Federal Register of their approval by the Office of Management and Budget. OMB approval has been obtained, and the Federal Register publication is scheduled to

We recently wrote about the proposed changes in the FCC’s rules about station-conducted contests, here.  The FCC has proposed that much of the required disclosure about the material terms of these contests be allowed to be conducted online, rather than having to be announced on-air often enough so that listeners to the station are

The FCC on Friday proposed to amend its rules governing contests conducted by broadcast stations by allowing the required disclosure of the material terms of the contest on the Internet, as an option for broadcasters in lieu of the current requirement that these disclosures be made by broadcasting them on-the-air a reasonable number of times.  But the proposed rule change is not as simple as one would think, with the FCC asking about whether a number of specific obligations should be attached to any online disclosures, even potentially adding the requirement that the full URL for the online disclosure be made every time a contest is mentioned on the air, not simply a reasonable number of times as required under the current rules.  So just what is the FCC proposing, and what is the big issue here?

The rule governing the conduct of broadcaster’s contests, Section 73.1216, covers contests conducted by broadcasters over-the-air.  It does not cover contests by broadcasters that are exclusively conducted online (though, as we wrote here, if the contest is announced on the air, even if primarily conducted online, all the required on-air disclosures apply).  It does not cover contests conducted by third-parties that are broadcast on the air (so contests conducted by an advertiser are not covered by this rule).  The current rule, in addition to requiring that the contest be conducted fairly and in accordance with the rules adopted for the contest, requires that the “material rules” be broadcast on the air on a regular basis so that listeners know what they might win, how to play the contest, and how the winner is selected.  It is this requirement, that the material rules be broadcast on the station, that has led to problems in the past, and thus prompted the proposed changes advanced on Friday.
Continue Reading FCC Proposes To Amend Rules Governing Broadcast Contests – Suggests Allowing Disclosure of Material Terms of the Contest on the Internet

The FCC has upheld a fine issued to a radio station licensee for what it determined was a failure to disclose all the rules of a broadcast contest. The giveaway was of "the Ultimate Garage" and the FCC determined, in response to a complaint, that the station had failed to disclose all of the material rules of the contest on the air. In looking at the many issues cited by the Commission in support of the fine, some are ones that are similar to those in other cases that we’ve written about before, but some are ones that have not been disclosed in other recent FCC fines – including the requirement that stations broadcast the all of the material rules of the contest not just periodically throughout the course of the contest enough so that a reasonable listener will hear the rules, but also the material rules must be announced the first time that the contest is announced to the public. 

The Commission found that the licensee here had not disclosed, in either the first announcement about the contest or in enough of the other broadcast announcements that the contest was a "winner take all" contest – where the Ultimate Garage would be awarded to only a single winner. The broadcaster had promoted the contest in both live-read announcements and in a variety of recorded announcements. While certain of the recorded announcements made clear that there was but one garage to be given away, many of the other recorded announcements and the live read announcements tended to refer listeners to the full contest rules on the website, where the rules mistakenly talked about the possibility multiple winners. But that was not the only issue that the FCC saw in the station’s disclosures.


Continue Reading Another $4000 FCC Fine for Radio Station that Fails to Disclose All Material Rules of a Broadcast Contest the First Time the Contest was Announced

The FCC has fined a Boston radio station $4000 for airing misleading announcements on the radio station as to the nature of the prize to be awarded in a station contest. In addition to an interesting set of facts in this case, the FCC’s decision also reviews several other recent decisions in explaining why it came to the decision it did as to the amount of the proposed fine. 

In this case, the contest was promoted on the air as an opportunity to win a choice of three cars. The "Cool, Hot or Green" contest announcements never revealed on the air that the winner in fact did not receive the car, but instead only a two year lease on the car, and only if the winner passed a credit check. Nor did the on-air announcements mention that full contest rules were available on the station’s website. While the written rules on the website made clear that the prize was merely a lease of the car, as has been the case in many recent decisions (see our summaries here and here), the Commission faulted the licensee for not broadcasting an accurate disclosure of these rules on the air. While the licensee argued that this was but a minor ambiguity in the rules, the FCC, reviewing some recent decisions, disagreed.


Continue Reading $4000 FCC Fine for Radio Station’s Misleading Contest Announcements Provides Summary of Recent Decisions on Contest Rule Violations

In a decision issued last week, the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau once again made clear that stations will be given no slack if they don’t announce on the air all of the material terms of a contest – even the specifics of changes in prizes to be awarded over a long period of time. In this decision, the FCC imposed a $4000 fine on a radio station for a contest called “Who Said That,” where the station broadcast a clip of a celebrity saying something, and gave prizes to listeners who identified the celebrity. The fine was triggered by the last clip in the series, broadcast in 2007, that was not correctly identified for 20 months. Through the summer of 2008, the station continued to broadcast the contest rules, but apparently stopped broadcasting them except when prompted by a listener from summer 2008 through September 2009, when the prize was finally awarded, . The failure to announce the rules during this time period, and the failure to announce that prizes had changed during this time, led to the $4000 fine.

The Commission faulted the licensee for not updating the on-air announcement of the list of the prizes to be awarded. The licensee argued that there was no material violation as, when certain prizes became unavailable (e.g. tickets to concert that occurred during the period when the prize remain unawarded), the station substituted prizes of equal value. But the failure to announce the substitutions, or even that substitutions would be made, was seen by the FCC as a violation of Section 73.1216 of the rules.


Continue Reading $4000 FCC Fine for Not Updating Material Terms of Broadcast Contest in On-Air Announcements

Having broadcast all of the material rules of a station’s contest was not enough to avoid a $10,000 fine for having misleading rules – when there were errors in the contest deadlines posted on a station’s website and in emails sent to contest participants. In an FCC Notice of Apparent Liability proposing a fine for a North Carolina FM station, the Commission also upped the fine from the usual $4000 base fine for a contest violation to $10,000, because the corporate parent of the licensee had been hit with two other fines for contest violations (one in 2009 and one almost two decades ago, in 1994) and as the company had very significant revenues in the past year.

The contest was called “Carolina Cuties”, where contestants posted pictures of their babies on the station’s website, the winning picture to be selected by a vote of station listeners.   The station’s on-air announcements properly stated that the voting could continue through September 5 of last year, with the winner announced on September 6. But, on the website, during a week at the end of August, it was stated that the winner would be selected on September 4.  This was later updated to say that the voting deadline was September 4, but correctly stating that the prize would be awarded on the 6th.   An email to contestants also used the September 4 voting deadline date. Votes were in fact taken through September 5, as announced on the air. Nevertheless, as the website and emails stated that the voting deadline was September 4, the Commission determined that the station contest was not conducted “substantially as announced or advertised,” and proposed to levy the fine.


Continue Reading $10,000 FCC Fine for Failure to Follow Contest Rules – On-Air Rules Were Right, But Online Rules Were Wrong

FCC fines for violations of the FCC rules dealing with contests have been common in the last few years. Because of these fines, we recently conducted a webinar for the Kansas Association of Broadcasters, discussing the requirements of FCC rule Section 73.1216 which regulates the conduct of station-sponsored contests.  We also discussed what should be addressed