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New Contest Rules Spelled Out

The recently released Report and Order provides concrete guidance on how stations must meet contest disclosure obligations

Thanks to the recent FCC order on contest rules that we told you about, there are new guidelines for U.S. radio station managers to know.

On Sept. 17, the FCC formally approved and released the Contest Rule Report and Order, which provides concrete guidance on how stations must meet their contest disclosure obligations.

Stations are required to disclose contest terms either by broadcasting those terms or by making them available in writing on a publicly accessible Internet website. In particular, the FCC amended the Contest Rule to allow licensees to satisfy their disclosure obligation by posting key contest terms on the station’s website, the licensee’s website, or, if neither the individual station nor the licensee has its own website, any Internet site readily accessible to the public.

The website option of course is going to be very popular, and the FCC adopted certain requirements for those licensees. The rules now state that in such cases, a station must broadcast the relevant website address periodically in a way that allows a listener to to find the contest terms online easily. It must establish a link to key contest terms on the website’s home page, must maintain contest terms online for a period of at least 30 days after the contest ends and must announce on air when the terms of a contest have changed. Those announcements must be made within 24 hours of a change and periodically afterwards.

Accuracy is key. The rules also specifically state that whatever key details are listed on a website must also conform to what’s being mentioned on air.

The commission also amended the rules to clarify that a broadcasters does not need to list out a lengthy, burdensome website in cases where a drawn-out website name would be confusing to the public. Instead, the new rules state, broadcasters can simply identify a relevant address and offer simple instructions on how to find the contest rules on a site.

You can read the complete Report and Order here (PDF); the final rules are stated in Appendix B on pages 14-15. Remember that for questions involving legal matters, consult your station’s broadcast attorney.