What’s the News?

Recently, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking seeking comment on proposed updates to its broadcast Contest Rule.

The FCC’s Action

The FCC’s current broadcast Contest Rule requires broadcasters to disclose important contest information fully and accurately, over the air, at the time the audience is told how to enter or participate in the contest. A broadcaster’s obligation to disclose contest terms is continuing, and the broadcaster must periodically announce the contest terms on the station conducting the contest. The FCC has fined numerous broadcasters over the last few years for failure to read material contest terms on the air.

Adopted in 1976, the Contest Rule reflects the media consumption patterns of that time. In an effort to more accurately account for how the public obtains information today, the FCC has proposed allowing broadcasters to meet their disclosure obligations by posting contest terms online. The proposed rule would give broadcasters the option of announcing a web address where the public can find contest information each time the broadcasters mention their contests on the air. In addition, if a broadcaster that chooses to disclose contest terms online later changes these terms, the broadcaster must also announce on air that the contest terms have changed. The website containing the contest terms must be publically accessible.

All five FCC Commissioners voted to move forward with the proposed rulemaking, with many of the Commissioners noting that the proposed rule was a much needed update that would bring the Contest Rule into the 21st Century.

What’s the Takeaway?

The proposed changes to the Contest Rule would allow broadcasters greater flexibility in deciding how to present material contest terms to the public. They may also help consumers better access and understand contest rules that otherwise would have been stated over the air, thus perhaps reducing consumer complaints.