FCC Approves Placement of Contest Rules on Station Websites

The FCC has adopted a revised contest rule permitting radio and television stations to disclose on the Internet the material terms of contests they conduct. These revisions to Section 73.1216 of the FCC’s rules are intended to allow for greater flexibility in the disclosure of contest terms and conditions by permitting a station to place a complete set of rules on its website, or continue to broadcast the material terms on air.

The basic requirements at the core of the contest rule – that a station conducting a contest must “fully and accurately disclose the material terms of the contest, and shall conduct the contest substantially as announced or advertised” – remain unchanged. In adopting the updated rule, the Commission has recognized that the Internet affords an accessible means by which contestants can readily locate a station’s contest rules and review them at their convenience, and enables broadcasters to make the rules available without having to devote significant airtime to presentation of the material terms of the contest in place of other programming content.

The new on-line disclosure provisions to the contest rule require that:

  • The rules must be “publicly accessible,” defined by the FCC as posted on a website which is designed to be available at all times, without charge, and without any registration requirement. Posting on a station’s website, the licensee’s website, or, if neither the station nor the licensee has a website, on any third party website which is available “24/7” without a fee and without requiring registration, will satisfy this requirement.
  • The address of the website on which the rules are posted must be announced periodically on the air by the station conducting the contest in a manner that enables a listener or viewer to easily locate the site on-line (such as, “for contest terms, go to wxyz.com and click on the contest tab”). The link to the “contest tab” must be conspicuous on the home page to which contestants are directed, a practice which has already become prevalent.
  • The rules must be posted when the audience is first told how to enter or participate in the contest, as required by the existing rules, and must remain online until at least 30 days after the winner has been selected and announced by the station. If a station makes any material changes in the posted rules, the online rules must be changed to reflect the changes and broadcasters must announce on-air that the online rules have been revised within 24 hours (or sooner, if practicable). To avoid confusion, the posted rules should indicate the date the most recent change, if any, was made, and if the rules continue to be posted indefinitely after the contest has ended, they should reflect the date the contest ended and the date the winner was announced.

As has been the case since the contest rule was adopted in 1976, the “material terms” of any station conducted contest – how to enter and participate; eligibility restrictions; entry start and end dates; whether and when prizes can be won, and the nature and value of the prizes; when and how the winners will be determined; and tie-breaking procedures – must continue to be disclosed; the only change is that stations will, once the revised rule is effective, be permitted to make that disclosure either on-air or on-line. The contest rule continues not to apply to any licensee-conducted contest not broadcast or advertised to the public on-air or in which the general public is not permitted to participate, to any commercial advertisement of a contest not conducted by the licensee, and in other limited circumstances.

The new disclosure requirements will not go into effect until they are approved by the Office of Management and Budget, a process that can take several months. We will advise you when the new rules are effective.

If you have any questions about the revised contest rule or any aspect of the Commission’s contest policies, please contact any attorney in our office.

Categories: Media