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John Garziglia

Do You Still Need to Air Contest Rules?


Now that contest rules are consistently listed on radio station websites, what do stations need to do about broadcasting those rules over the air? A Radio Ink reader asks the question: Is there a law requiring we broadcast them on a regular basis through all day parts and do those rules apply to streaming as well? We turned that question over to broadcast attorney John Garziglia.

A disgruntled listener filing a contest complaint at the FCC is one of the surest ways to provoke the FCC into an enforcement action against a radio station.  Therefore, asking about streaming is good as no broadcaster wants to be on the receiving end of an FCC complaint.  Section 73.1216 of the Commission's rules governs on-air broadcaster conducted contests.  That rule requires that, when a radio station-conducted contest is advertised, the broadcaster fully and accurately discloses the material terms of the contest, and conducts the contest substantially as announced or advertised.

There are no FCC contest requirements for programming on a streamed channel.  For the on-the-air contest that is also streamed, provided the contest rules so  state, the broadcaster may limit participation in the contest to residents of a certain geographic area, or require that prizes be picked up in person, to limit the  contest to contestants in the broadcasters market area, rather than allowing streaming listeners at some far away location to enter and win. 

The FCC states that the time and manner of contest rules dissemination are up to a licensees reasonable discretion. The material terms of a broadcaster conducted contest must be broadcast when the audience is first told how to enter or participate.  A contests material terms must be disclosed periodically by announcements on the station, but do not need to be broadcast fully each time an announcement promoting the contest is broadcast.  According to the FCC, the  broadcast of the material terms of contest rules in a reasonable number of announcements is sufficient.   Simply broadcasting the full contest rules at 3:00 a.m., however, is insufficient. 

It is useful to note that the FCCs broadcast contest rules are not applicable to the commercial advertisement of non-licensee-conducted contests.  Nonetheless,  as with any advertisement, the station still has a liability for material broadcast so even if the FCCs contest rules are not implicated, the basic tenants of avoiding  fraud, other scams, and violations of state and federal laws, should be observed. 

Broadcasters are sometime asked to run a contest that the broadcaster believes may violate the law.  The contest may involve what is believed to be an illegal  lottery, offshore gambling, internet poker, the giving away of controlled products such as alcoholic beverages, or prizes that appear to be simply too good to be  true.  The broadcaster, of course, does not wish to turn away a buy, but also must avoid violating the law.  My suggestion to a broadcaster in such a situation is  to ask the entity or agency making the buy to supply a letter from its lawyer stating that the contest as planned is legal under applicable law.  Asking the client for

a lawyer letter usually quickly ferrets out questionable broadcast material.  Needless to say, even if you receive such a lawyer letter stating that the questionable contest is legal, you should still consult with your own legal counsel if you have any remaining doubts. 

There are no separate FCC rules for contests on streaming channels.  The FCCs contest rule purview is limited to licensee-conducted on-air contests.  With all broadcast and streamed content, however, keep in mind other state and federal laws are also likely applicable. 

(8/4/2014 8:33:19 PM)
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