Radio Stations Petition FCC to Change Contest Rules

Published February 28, 2012

Entercom, one of the largest radio chains in the United States, is petitioning the Federal Communications Commission to change the requirement that radio stations disclose contest rules over the air. At issue is the length of time and frequency required by the FCC for radio announcers to read contest rules, which Entercom asserts results in listeners tuning to competitors’ stations.

In its January 20, 2012 petition, Entercom argues consumers access information in very different manners than when the rule was first written, in 1976. The company states consumer access to information is now instantaneous and more effective with Web sites and e-mail.

“There is no question that the FCC’s rule requiring on-air recitations of material contest terns is outdated, assuming that it was ever justified in the first instance,” John F. Garziglia, a broadcast attorney with Washington, DC-based Womble Carlyle, told Radio Ink Magazine.

Garziglia continued: “[W]hile the contest-rule petition for rulemaking is on target, it is far too narrow. Rather, broadcasters should encourage the FCC to incorporate Entercom’s petition into a broader rulemaking proceeding that seeks to review and revise, because of the ubiquity of the Internet, irrelevant and outdated FCC rules and policies.”

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Robert J. Miller, a telecommunications regulatory attorney in the Southwest, says current FCC laws are “for the benefit of the listener. When these rules were written, listeners would not have been sitting in front of an LED screen or streaming content over the Internet,” he acknowledged.

However, he said, “Contest rules have historically been abused by broadcasters. Now they have to be honest about the contest because otherwise it defeats the purpose of attracting listeners. The rules are there to make sure the public isn’t deceived.”

John C. Donlevie, an executive vice president at Entercom, says his company filed the petition because of a need to reconcile decades-old FCC regulations with current digital technology.

“The FCC felt there needed to be more rules for contests,” he said. “What’s interesting is that you can have the same contest for the radio station and one for a car company, but the rules don’t apply to the contest being run by the car company,” he explained.

“What we’ve done is petition the FCC to change the rules for contests by radio stations so that we don’t have to put the rules on the air, which can be disruptive to programming, especially if, for instance, the rules take up to two minutes to read,” he said.

“If you’re riding in the car, listening to the radio, and the contest comes on, this is not someplace where the listener can write the contest rules down,” he noted. “We instead make the rules available through the Internet, or if [listeners wish], we can fax the rules or listeners can come in person to acquire them.”

Kenneth Artz ([email protected]) writes from Dallas, Texas.

Internet Info
“The Antiquated FCC Contest Rule Requirement,” Radio Ink Magazine, January 24, 2012: