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FCC Upholds $4,000 Fine for WKRN

Younger Karmazin’s broadcast group owns station; disputed contest violation

The FCC upheld an earlier proposed fine against Good Karma Broadcasting for airing contest information without fully disclosing the terms.

Craig Karmazin, son of SiriusXM President/CEO Mel Karmazin, has the same role for Good Karma Broadcasting. 

The case concerns WKRN(AM), Cleveland. The FCC received a complaint alleging that from November 2007 to September 2009, the station conducted what the complainant called a “bogus” contest called “Who Said That?”

Callers had to identify who actually voiced a clip that was played on-air.

The complainant alleged the station stopped discussing prizes during the contest.

In 2009, the commission asked WKRN about the contests. The agency said WKRN admitted the bit aired regularly from early 2007 until the summer of 2008, and then sporadically thereafter. Once someone guessed the voice, a new bit with a new clip would air.

Except that for more than 20 months, no one guessed the voice behind the clip. The station was not announcing all the prizes, but rather focusing on the new prizes and eventually stopped announcing them unless a listener called in and tried to guess the voice behind the last clip.

Good Karma also said that by September 2009, some of the original prizes were no longer available. The licensee claimed that if a listener correctly identified the voice in a clip, the station would have offered a similar prize package to the one that was originally announced.

Good Karma disputed that it violated the contest rules, arguing that “Who Said That?” was better characterized as a feature or bit rather than a real contest, therefore, the material is not subject to the FCC’s contest rules.

The licensee thought it should be admonished, but not fined.

Nice try but no dice, the FCC essentially said, repeating that licensees must accurately disclose the material terms of a contest — all of them. Licensees must also conduct the contest “substantially as announced or advertised,” according to the agency’s decision.

The commission also said “Who Said That?” really was a contest and upheld the $4,000 penalty. That’s due by Sept. 21.