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Entercom Proposes Changes to Contest Rules

Broadcaster petitions FCC to allow contest rules to go off-air

It’s high time to allow stations to place their contest rules on the Web, or disseminate them elsewhere off-air, rather than requiring licensees to include all of the material rules for each contest on the air.

That’s the gist of a proposal submitted to the commission by Entercom Communications Corp., licensee of 112 stations (32 AM and 80 FM).

The proposal is particularly timely because last week the FCC proposed a $22,000 fine against some Clear Channel stations for what it said was a failure to broadcast all of the “material” rules of a particular contest on-air.

In its petition for rulemaking, Entercom suggests its proposal is in line with “how the majority of Americans access and consume information in the 21st century and [would provide] relief to radio from mandated program content that is counterproductive and not the most effective way to achieve the purposes of the contest rule.”

“In today’s fast-paced world, Americans expect to instantly access information at their fingertips by merely logging on to a website, conducting a Google search, or using an app on their smartphone,” states Entercom in its petition. “Relying on broadcast announcements for material contest information may have been an acceptable way to attempt to inform the public about the terms of a contest when the contest rule was enacted in 1976, but it is certainly not the case today, especially when there are superior methods that are simple to implement.”

Most stations now have dedicated websites where they can disclose complete contest information to the public that can be accessed “on demand,” adds the broadcaster.

The so-called Contest Rule was enacted to make sure stations conducted contests in a fair manner “in light of certain abusive contest practices the FCC observed in the 1960s and 1970s,” stated the broadcaster, which observes that television can more easily insert text at the bottom of the screen to fulfill the requirement. Radio, on the other hand, must interrupt programming to fulfill the requirement, which drives away listeners.

Entercom argues that stations can also provide listeners with contest information using email, fax, mail or in-person — all of which would be a more effective way to disseminate contest information than waiting to hear on-air announcements. Current announcements don’t provide all of the contest details, may not be heard or even understood by listeners “as the listening environment for radio varies widely”, notes the company.

The company proposes the commission amend the contest rule to allow stations to do what they’re doing now and airing the rules on-air, or place the rules on their website or make them available via fax, email, mail or in-person, as well as announce how or where the public can get the rules.

Fletcher, Heald & Hildreth says no comments have yet been filed on the petition, which the FCC could ignore, or it could invite public comments on the petition, the first step towards an eventual rulemaking.

FCC Fines Clear Channel in L.A. Contest Rules Case