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FCC, CBS Reach Deal on KDKA ‘Million Dollar Prize’ Comments

Caller complained, CBS says comments were a joke, not a contest

The Federal Communications Commission and CBS Radio settled a dispute over a purported contest violation.

The case concerned KDKA(AM), Pittsburgh, Pa. The FCC investigated a complaint lodged in 2007. A listener said the host of the “Marty Griffin Show” announced he would give away $1 million to the 13th caller, and that he would give away “1 million an hour thereafter,” according to the consent decree. The person who complained alleged that while the station told him he was the 13th caller, there was no million dollar prize and the jock’s comments were a joke.

The FCC opened an investigation and sent a letter to CBS. The broadcaster did not dispute what happened, but said the broadcast was a joke, not a contest, and therefore it did not violate the commission’s contest rules. The FCC disagreed and in 2009 issued a Notice of Apparent Liability for $6,000. CBS responded to the NAL by reasserting its argument that the contest rules were not applicable to the broadcast.

Now, both sides have agreed to a Consent Decree to settle the case. The FCC ended its investigation, dismissed the complaint and cancelled the fine. In exchange, CBS agreed to make a voluntary contribution of $6,000 to the U.S. Treasury within 10 days without any admission of liability. CBS also agreeded to prepare a memo about the FCC’s contest rules and distribute it to employees involved in the broadcast, provide contest rule training for them and to file regular compliance reports with the agency.