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‘Carolina Cuties’ Confusion Snags WBAV

Company warned about future conduct

A contest got WBAV(FM), Gastonia, N.C. in hot water with the FCC.

The commission says the CBS Radio station didn’t run its “Carolina Cuties” contest the same way the contest was advertised and proposed a $10,000 fine.

The idea was the station invited participants to submit baby photos to be posted to the WBAV website and then would be voted on by the public. The winner would get a prize.

Someone complained to the FCC alleging that the station sent her an email with the wrong voting deadline and that confused the public, compromising her child’s chances of winning.

CBS told the FCC the station staff twice posted the wrong information on its website and sent emails to the 10 finalists with the wrong dates for the voting deadlines. However the broadcaster denies allegations that it didn’t conduct the contest substantially as announced or advertised.

On-air, the station said the contest voting would end Sept. 5, 2011 and the winners revealed on Sept. 6. The website stated submissions would end a day earlier, on Sept. 4, indicating voting could end then as well. CBS told the commission the actions were inadvertent and didn’t favor or disfavor any finalist because the station actually let voting continue until the 5th.

Yet, visiting the website to vote was an essential part of the contest, and misinformation confused the public, the commission decided, noting that nonbroadcast ways of announcing a contest only supplement, not replace, the obligation to broadcast the material terms of a contest.

That’s why it proposed a $10,000 fine. Given the broadcast group owners “history of noncompliance,” the agency cautioned CBS Radio that the fines may be higher in the future if such conduct persists.

The broadcaster has 30 days to appeal or pay the fine.