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Broadcaster Fined $4,000 for Contest Complaint

WASHINGTON: The Federal Communications Commission today levied a $4,000 fine against a Maryland radio station for misrepresenting a listener contest. WWEG-FM in Myersville, Md., “failed to conduct a contest substantially as announced or advertised, in apparent willful and repeated violation... of the commission’s rules,” the FCC notice stated.

The FCC received a complaint about the contest June 16, 2008. It was conducting a Father’s Day contest that was advertised to be open through June 13, 2008. However, when the complainant called on June 13, she was told a winner had been picked on June. 12.

The FCC’s enforcement bureau queried WWEG’s owners, Nassau Broadcasting III, LLC, about the contest in which listeners were urged to log onto the station Web site from May 22, through June 13. Daily winners were selected at 7:20 a.m. for a round of golf or a car wash and oil change. The grand prize was a Hammel watch. Nassau said it was made clear that the grand prize winner would be announced June 13 at 7:20 a.m. Notwithstanding that a winner was picked the day before, Nassau said the complainant would not have been eligible to participate at 8:30 a.m. June 13, when she called in.

The FCC disagreed. Commission rules state that “A licensee that broadcasts or advertises information about a contest it conducts shall fully and accurately disclose the material terms of the contest, and shall conduct the contest substantially as announced or advertised. No contest description shall be false, misleading or deceptive with respect to any material term.”

Those material terms include how the contest is operated, participation, eligibility, whether there are prizes and when they can be won, etc. The terms must be announced on the stations conducting contests.

“By selecting the grand prize winner on June 12, 2008, which is a day before the announced expiration of the contest entry period, the station violated the advertised material terms of the contest.Accordingly, we disagree with Nassau’s contention that it conducted the contest ‘substantially’ as advertised,” the FCC said.

Nassau has 30 days to either pony up $4,000 or file a written statement seeking a reduction or cancellation of the fine.
-- Deborah D. McAdams