on air give away rules

In recent years, the FCC has been to aggressively enforcing a policy requiring broadcasters to announce all material rules of a contest on the air enough times for a reasonable listener to hear the announcements.  This past week, there was yet another case where this policy was enforced, resulting in a $4000 fine to a broadcaster.  While the FCC continues to enforce this policy, at least one broadcaster has reportedly decided that a fine for not having broadcast of the material rules of a contest is not justified, and is apparently ready to take the FCC on in Court in a case where the FCC tries to enforce a fine issued several years ago.

The newest fine involved a station in Cleveland, which ran a contest called "Who Said That" where a clip of the voice of a sports figure was played on the air.  The first person to be able to identify the speaker won a prize.  Apparently, if no prize was awarded, a new prize was added each week until the voice was identified, when the winner would get all of the accumulated prizes.  In this case, the station ran an announcement about the rules regularly until the station aired a clip that was not identified for some time.   As the clip remained unidentified over the course of many weeks, and then many months, the station apparently became less rigorous about announcing the rules.  But, more importantly to the FCC, the station did not announce on the air all of the prizes that had accumulated, nor did it announce that some of the prizes had become unavailable and had been replaced over time by prizes of what the station considered to be of an equivalent value.  As the station had not announced the "extent, nature and value of the prizes," the FCC found the station to be in violation – even though the right to substitute prizes of equal value was contained in the written rules published by the station.

Continue Reading FCC Fines Another Broadcaster For Not Announcing All Rules of a Contest – While One Broadcaster Protests

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

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. 

Continue Reading Broadcast Station Contests – Announce the Full Contest Rules and Follow Them