(1) The FCC’s contest rule applies to all “licensee-conducted” contests.  Sometimes you can easily conclude that a contest falls within this category; for example, if a station itself gives away concert tickets, the rule applies.  But what if a carTop10 dealer approaches a station with a proposal that station DJs promote the car dealer’s contest on-air and on the station Facebook page and broadcast live from the dealership when it awards the prize?  Although the car dealer is running the contest, the safest thing would be to consider such a contest “licensee-conducted” due to the station’s involvement and comply with the FCC’s rule.

(2) If you advertise your contest on-air (or even if your DJ or weather person so much as mentions the contest on-air), you must periodically broadcast material terms for the contest.  Material terms include: how to enter or participate; eligibility restrictions; entry deadline dates; whether prizes can be won; when prizes can be won; the extent, nature, and value of the prizes;  the basis for valuation of prizes; time and means of selection of winners; and tie-breaking procedures.

(3) Material term announcements must begin airing the same day as you first advertise or mention the contest on-air.  The FCC’s rules require material terms to be broadcast “periodically,” but do not define the term.  A good practice is to air material terms at least once per day in rotating day parts.  If you promote a contest only during certain day parts, your material terms announcements should air during that day part.

(4) Your material terms announcements must match your official contest rules.  For example, if your material term announcements state that a prize is worth $100, your official rules must also state that the prize is worth $100.

(5) If you’re giving away tickets as a prize, be sure that the tickets are transferrable and that you have express permission from the sports team, concert promoter, etc. to give away the tickets as a prize.

(6) If your contest involves a trademarked term, such as the name of a sports team (e.g., “WXYZ’s Yankees Baseball Ticket Giveaway”), be sure you have permission from the trademark owner to use the term in your promotion.    Many college and professional sports leagues, and as well as sports league governing bodies, aggressively enforce their trademark rights, owing in part to the fact they sell sponsorships to third parties for substantial sums of money.

(7) Contests involving children raise tricky issues.  Generally, contests that require entrants to submit personal information online (such as in an online entry form) should not be open to children under the age of 13.  And for children between 13 and the age of majority (18 in most states but 19 or 21 in some others), a parent or legal guardian should enter the contest in the parent’s own name (but can submit information about their minor child).

(8) Facebook no longer allows “Like-gating.”  Facebook recently changed the guidelines that govern contests conducted on its platform to forbid page owners from requiring entrants to “Like” a page in order to enter a contest.  You can still conduct contests on Facebook, but you cannot require a Like.  For all contests conducted or advertised on Facebook, remember that your official rules should include the “Facebook disclaimer” (i.e., “This Promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Facebook.  By submission of an entry, an entrant releases Facebook from any responsibility or liability for the Promotion’s administration, prizes or promotion. You are providing entry information to the Station and not to Facebook.”). 

(9) Familiarize yourself with the laws regarding sweepstakes and contests in your state.  Some states have specific requirements regarding, among other things, disclosures that must be contained in official rules and record retention.

(10) Consider obtaining a liability and/or publicity release and waiver from contest winners before awarding the prize.  A liability release and waiver protects the station against liability related to the contest.  By signing a liability waiver and release, the winner agrees not to sue the station for claims or losses resulting from the contest.  A publicity release and waiver grants the station permission to use the winner’s name, image, or user-generated content on-air or online and to waive any claim to compensation for such use.

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