contest material terms

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

In another sign of just how closely the FCC monitors contests conducted by broadcast stations, the FCC this week issued a Notice of Apparent Liability (a notice of a fine of $4000) to Nassau Broadcasting for being imprecise in the wording of the contest rules for a contest to be held at one of its stations.  In the rules of the contest, the station stated that entries would be accepted "through June 13, 2008."  In fact, the contest was conducted on the evening of June 12, and the station cut off entries to the contest on June 12.  When a listener went to enter the contest on June 13, and was told that she could not enter as the prize had already been awarded, the listener filed a complaint at the FCC.  The FCC, reading the language "through June 13" to mean that listeners could enter the contest up to and including that day, fined the licensee $4000 for misleading its listeners as to the proper rules for the contest it conducted.  This is another indication of just how seriously the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau is taking the enforcement of Section 73.1216 of the Commission’s rules, which requires licensees "to fully and accurately disclose the material terms" of any contests that it conducts, and to "conduct the contest substantially as announced or advertised."  Broadcasters need to be very precise in their wording of contest rules, and make sure that they carefully observe the details of the rules that they adopt.

In this case, it seems likely that the licensee was simply imprecise in its wording – stating that entries would be taken "through June 13" when it meant "before June 13."  This would have seemed evident from the fact that the rules said that the winner would be announced on the morning show on June 13.  Clearly, if the winner was going to be announced on the morning of June 13, it wouldn’t do much good entering after that time.  But the ambiguity in the rules is construed by the FCC against the party who prepared the rules – as is evident from the finding in this case that these rules did not fully and accurately describe the rules of the contest (and actually holding the contest on the night of the 12th instead of the morning of the 13th probably didn’t help much).  So what should a broadcaster do to make sure that this kind of ambiguity does not hit them in one of their contests?Continue Reading A $4000 Fine After a Complaint About a Broadcast Contest – Make Sure that Contest Rules are Precise

In two decisions released in the last two weeks, the FCC fined two radio stations $4000 each for perceived violations of its contest rules.  The first decision was based on a perceived ambiguity in the contest rules that did not make clear in broadcasts and in written rules that there would be only one winner in a contest.  In the second, the FCC faulted the licensee for not giving the prize away within 30 days of the contest end.  Both cases demonstrate the seriousness with which the FCC seems to take contest rules, especially the need for disclosure of all material terms to listeners, both in over-the-air announcements (see our post here on the need to broadcast the material terms of a contest) and in the written rules governing the contest.  Seemingly, ambiguities will be construed against the licensee and any material parts of the contest, including when the prize will be delivered must be clear the contestants.

In the first case, The Commission found that the licensee had not made clear in its on-air announcements and in its written rules that there would be only one prize awarded in the contest.  When one closely reads the case, what seems to come through most clearly is that the Commission is expecting licensees to document carefully that they have clearly provided the material rules of the contest on the air, sufficiently so that a reasonable listener would be aware of those rules.  In this case, the licensee was unable to document how often its announcements providing the rules were broadcast, or to conclusively say if they had ever been broadcast at all.  The contest was to give away a garage full of prizes, so it would seem that the nature of the contest itself made clear that there was going to be only one winner.  But the Commission concluded that there were not enough unambiguous statements that there would be but a single winner – thus prompting the fine.Continue Reading Ambiguous Contest Promotional Announcements and Slow Award of Prize Each Cost Radio Stations $4000 FCC Fine