Last Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission (the “FCC” or “Commission”) revised its long-standing radio and television broadcaster contest and sweepstakes rules disclosure regulations.

Under the FCC’s recent report and order, what are broadcasters’ disclosure options?

New Means of Distributing Contest and Sweepstakes Rules for Broadcasters

Previously, Section 73.1216 of the FCC rules (adopted almost 40 years ago) required radio and television broadcasters to disclose on air the material terms and conditions associated with promotional contests and sweepstakes that they broadcast. Those familiar with TV and radio contests will recall the ubiquitous “fine print” that traditionally follows such broadcasts, often spoken at lightning speed and in fine print that is hardly comprehensible.

In a report and order issued last week, the Commission overhauled its regulations for the dissemination of such contest and sweepstakes rules. Licensed broadcasters may now either broadcast the material terms or make those terms available in written form on a readily accessible website. The FCC noted that, “given the ubiquitous nature of the Internet and current consumer expectations about how to obtain information, broadcast disclosure of material contest terms no longer reflects the best means of conveying such information to the public in all cases.”

Online Disclosure of Contest and Sweepstakes Rules

Specifically, licensed TV and radio broadcasters that choose to disclose material contest and sweepstakes rules online under the revised FCC regulations must:

  • broadcast the relevant website address periodically;
  • provide a hyperlink to the terms on the broadcaster’s home page;
  • maintain the contest and/or sweepstakes rules online at least thirty days after the contest/sweepstakes has ended;
  • ensure that any material terms disclosed on a website conform in all substantive respects to those mentioned over the air; and
  • where the material terms of a contest/sweepstakes have changed, announce such changes on air within 24 hours and periodically thereafter, and direct participants to the website to review the changes.

Broadcasters may either recite their contest and sweepstakes rules website address mechanically (e.g., “w-w-w-dot-Klein-Moynihan-dot-com-forward-slash-rules”) or through simple instructions (e.g., “for contest rules, go to kleinmoynihan.com, and then click on the Contest tab”).

More Options for Broadcasters, but Disclosure Still Mandatory

While last week’s ruling updates the Commission’s disclosure rules, sponsors of contests and sweepstakes must ensure compliance with a number of additional state and federal regulations. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler reminded contest/sweepstakes sponsors in the broadcasting space that, “[r]egardless of the medium of disclosure, broadcasters are still obligated to provide complete, accurate, and timely information about the contests they conduct, to ensure that such information is not false, misleading, or deceptive, and to conduct their contests substantially as announced.”