FCC Opens Contest Rule Disclosure Changes For Public Comment
November 24, 2014 at 3:52 AM (PT)
As expected, the FCC has released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking asking for comment on changes in the regulations governing the disclosure of contest rules by broadcast licensees.
The proposal, approved by a 5-0 vote at FRIDAY's Open Meeting and based on ENTERCOM's petition filed in 2012, would allow stations to post contest rules on their websites and refer listeners to that posting in on-air announcements. The Commission is also proposing that if a station has no website of its own, the rules can be posted at "any readily publicly accessible Internet website." The modified rule would also require the broadcast of the "complete, direct website address" of the contest rules every time the station mentions or advertises the contest, and mention in the ads and promos when rules are changed. And stations would be allowed the option to continue to choose to disclose the rules by broadcasting them rather than posting them on a website.
Comments will be due 60 days after publication in the Federal Register, with replies due 90 days after publication.
Chairman TOM WHEELER said, "By launching this rulemaking, the Commission is taking another step to modernize its rules in a way that capitalizes on the Internet’s ubiquity and efficiency to meet the needs and expectations of consumers. The Commission recognizes that the Internet is an effective tool for distributing information to consumers, and today’s action is consistent with that value."
Commissioner MIGNON CLYBURN agreed, saying, "Today’s item will allow licensees to meet (the) disclosure obligation by permitting them to make terms of any contest available on a publicly accessible website. Doing so makes sense, given today’s consumption patterns, and will help interested participants find contest information they may have missed over the air in a place where they are bound to discover it: on the internet."
Commissioner JESSICA ROSENWORCEL added, "(W)hen it comes to media and communications, in 2014 we are in a whole new world. Social media has upended simple connections over the telephone, mobile payments have made inroads into our wallets, and online video is poised to become the new digital classroom and doctor’s office. So I think it’s time for broadcasters to be able to use 21st century tools to carry out their public interest obligations with respect to on air contests."
Commissioner AJIT PAI, recalling winning a radio prize (a cassette tape with the theme to "MIAMI VICE") as a 12-year-old when his father won a contest and gave his son's name as the winner, said, This isn’t just an academic exercise. Contest rules are not the most compelling content. For some reason, people just don’t find them as catchy as songs like "ALL ABOUT THAT BASS" by MEGHAN TRAINOR or "HAPPY" by PHARRELL WILLIAMS. And there is evidence that many audience members change the channel when these rules are read on air."
And Commissioner MICHAEL O'RIELLY said, "The implementation of our current rule leaves a lot to be desired. I suspect that many radio listeners have experienced the auctioneer-style announcer rattle through the particulars of a contest at breathtaking speed during some rush hour commute. Many of us have also tried to glimpse at the microscopic fine print – which few can actually read – that appears on the television screen at the end of a contest promotion. These disclosures provide information about the terms and conditions of broadcast contests, but given the method by which they are delivered to comply with the Commission’s rules, they can be ignored or overlooked by viewers and listeners. Not to mention, some in the audience may even turn to another channel or station during these disclosures. These announcements also waste valuable airtime that can be better used by broadcasters to provide programming of interest to their communities. It is just plain common sense and a reflection of the current marketplace to allow broadcasters to announce a website where viewers and listeners can go, at any time, to review these rules, instead of doing so on air. It is also important that broadcasters have the option – as opposed to being required – to disclose the contest rules online. Today’s notice should ultimately result in greater flexibility, fewer burdens on stations, and greater availability of contest information for consumers."