The FCC recently affirmed a forfeiture order against New England radio station Saga Communications for violation of the FCC's rules relating to broadcast contests. The FCC determined that the station failed to conduct a contest substantially as announced in violation of FCC rules, because the station failed to timely deliver the contest prize within the 30 days set forth in the station's rules for its contest. Although the station admitted that it failed to send the prize until seven months after the contest, the station argued that promptness is not required by the FCC contest rules, that the FCC misinterpreted Saga Communications' contest rules, and that the conduct was neither willful nor repeated. The FCC rejected these arguments, finding that "contest prizes must be awarded promptly" and "Saga's own contest rule creates a reasonable expectation on the part of the winners" that prizes would be awarded within 30 days. The FCC further concluded that "willfulness" requires only the "conscious or deliberate commission or omission" of an act, regardless of whether or not the party actually intended to violate the FCC's rules.

TIP: When conducting a sweepstakes or contest, be sure to comply with all of the requirements set forth in the official rules. Radio and television stations that conduct these games should take care to ensure compliance with the FCC's rules relating to prize promotions.