FCC proposes more flexible contest disclosure requirements

FCC proposes more flexible contest disclosure requirements

At today’s Open Meeting, the FCC adopted a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NPRM”) designed to provide broadcasters greater flexibility in their disclosure of contest terms as required by the Commission’s rules.

Under the current rule, stations must disclose material contest terms over the air.  While this disclosure method will remain an option, the NPRM proposes to allow broadcasters to disclose material contest information online, in lieu of on-air announcements.  Under this proposal, a station could satisfy its disclosure obligations by posting contest information on: (1) the station’s website; (2) the licensee’s website; or (3) any website that is publicly accessible.  Each time the station mentions or advertises a contest, it would be required to broadcast the complete website address where the terms and conditions can be found.

The staff presentation indicated that the proposed rule changes would align with consumer expectations and the Commission’s recognition in other contexts that the Internet is an effective tool for distributing information to consumers.

Highlights of the Commissioners’ statements are below:

Commissioner Clyburn – The proposed rule changes make sense given today’s consumption patterns and will provide a more effective way for interested participants to obtain full, accurate, and detailed contest information.

Commissioner Rosenworcel – The values informing the original rule have stood the test of time, but the communications landscape has changed dramatically since 1976.  It is 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 Pai – Today’s action is not just an academic exercise.  There is evidence that on-air announcements effectively drive away viewers and listeners.  Broadcasters should be allowed the option to avoid this disruptive programming.

Commissioner O’Rielly – The item before us would modify an outdated regulation to reflect and embrace the full capabilities of the Internet to disseminate contest information.  I look forward to completing this proceeding in the very near future.  We should not allow this item to languish in the NPRM stage for one more day than necessary.

Chairman Wheeler – Through the Internet, we have an opportunity to provide this kind of essential information in a new way so that the timeless principles of honesty, fairness, and disclosure are kept up-to-date.

The News Release describing the NPRM is available at http://transition.fcc.gov/Daily_Releases/Daily_Business/2014/db1121/DOC-330619A1.pdf.