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FCC urged to streamline station contest rule disclosure

TAB this week filed comments with the FCC praising its effort to modernize the station contest rule disclosure by allowing stations to transfer disclosure from on-air to online. The move would be a long overdue solution to the problems caused by forcing broadcasters to speed-read or flash contest terms in limited on-air time and space, and the agency should resist trying to micromanage how stations cite or post the rules under the new regime.

Under the current rule, broadcasters must balance the risk of omitting “material” terms of a contest against the risk of audience loss if the announcement is too long and detailed. As a result, audience members must race to read and understand the terms displayed or announced.

Easing these burdens, the FCC’s proposed rule change allows broadcasters to make use of the virtually infinite space of the Internet to post all contest terms, and thus enables listeners and viewers to read and digest contest terms at a pace and time most convenient to them.

TAB’s DC counsel, Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, prepared the comments for TAB and state broadcast associations representing most of the 50 states, seizing on the FCC’s positive response to a request by Entercom whose Texas stations are members of TAB.

A few highlights from the comments:

  • Licensees should not be required to broadcast the “complete and direct” website address each time a contest is mentioned.
  • The FCC should not micro-manage broadcasters who choose to post contest rules online by specifying a particular format or adopting a retention requirement.
  • Allowing broadcasters to post all contest information online will eliminate or reduce disputes to determine whether terms are “material.”
  • No material differences exist between TV and radio to merit different treatment in the station contest rule.
  • Contest rules posted online should be available 24/7 during the contest, for free, and without any registration requirement, subject to technical outages or other force majeure events.

The complete comments are available in the members-only section of

Questions?  Contact TAB's Oscar Rodriguez or call (512) 322-9944.

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