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Contest Snafu Causes Bogey for South Central

Broadcaster may be liable for $8,000 fine

South Central Communications Corp. may be liable for an $8,000 fine for a contest mishap.

South Central is the licensee of four FMs: WIKY and WABX, Evansville, Ind., WLFW, Chandler, Ind. and WSTO Owensboro, Ky.

Officially, the proposed penalty is for failing to conduct a contest substantially as announced, and undue delay in concluding the contest and failing to accurately disclose its terms, according to the commission.

The case began in 2009 when the Enforcement Bureau responded to a complaint that alleged that South Central invited listeners to take part in a golf contest called “Par 3 Shoot Out,” but didn’t conduct the contest substantially as announced or advertised. At least one “weekly winner” didn’t get his or her promised golf hat, nor was that individual entered into a drawing for the grand prize, which was a Lexus, according to the FCC.

The licensee told the commission it aired all the contest announcements on its stations, however the broadcaster actually conducted the contest online. The contest was supposed to take place in two phases with a golf hat given to the contestant who had the best score each week. The names of that weekly winner, plus a write-in contestant, were to be eligible to take part in the second phase of the contest.

“In the second phase, the remaining contestants were to participate in an actual golf competition in which each ‘finalist’ would have one shot at a par three hole. The finalist that hit a golf ball closest to the pin would win a $350 gift certificate to a golf store. In addition, any finalist that hit a hole-in-one would be awarded a Lexus automobile,” according to the agency.

South Central says it conducted the online portion of the contest and selected golf hat winners each week. Winners could come to the stations to pick-up their hats. The broadcast did acknowledge that bad weather delayed the second phase of the contest. Then, the employee running the contest was let go, and then “simply forgot” about the contest for a while, according to the commission. When South Central heard from the commission, it resumed the contest, and changed the rules to now exclude pro golfers. Because of the delay, additional prizes were awarded, according to the broadcaster.

The FCC said in this case, too many variables changed from how the contest was supposed to unfold to what did actually happen and that’s why it proposed the penalty. Phase two, for example, took place a year later than originally advertised. Also, the on-air announcements didn’t indicate the car would only be awarded to the finalist hitting a hole-in-one — in the end, nobody won the car.

South Central has 30 days to appeal or pay.