FCC Proposes Fining Failed TV Contest

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The FCC has proposed fining Clear Channel's WAWS Jacksonville, Fla., $4,000 for a botched contest that wound up drawing few participants, angering some of those few, and generating the FCC complaint from one of the angry contestants. It was the smallest fine it could levy for the offense.

The contest, Win a Hot Rod For Dad, had required viewers to fill out an entry form at one of 15 participating Dodge dealerships for the chance to win a Dodge automobile.

Although the contest rules allowed multiple entries, the station threw out all but one entry from each person, including 20 of the 21 entries of the eventual complainant. Clear Channel, which conceded the contest was not run as advertised, blamed station personnel who had been going by an earlier draft of the rules that had excluded multiple entry.

But there were more problems. Entry forms from at least two of the dealerships were lost in transit, while a third dealership did not participate because it turned out not to sell Dodge cars. Three other dealerships produced no entries, two because they got not entries and one because they did not get them in at time,

But wait, there is more in this history of a contest that failed. At the "sparsely attended" June 19, 2004 drawing, 15 second prizes were drawn, with not a single winner in attendance, which was required to claim the prize. But station personnel did not continue to pull entries, instead awarding none of the 15 sets of theme park tickets.

By contrast, personnel continued to pull cards until a grand prize was awarded--it took 13 tries.

Not surprisingly, Clear Channel received a number of complaints, and the FCC received its complaint Aug. 2. Meanwhile, the company had decided to hold a second drawing under the original rules, which it did Aug. 28, that included the multiple entries originally excluded, plus the ones that had come in too late from some of the dealerships.

That contest was not publicized, since it was essentially a re-drawing, except among those original contestants, who Clear Channel says it contacted since showing up was still required.

The FCC complainant did not attend, says Clear Channel, which was a shame since his name was drawn several times.

The $4,000 is the base fine the FCC can levy for the offense of failing to conduct a contest as advertised. The FCC cited the re-drawing as a good faith effort to repair the damage, noting it was undertaking before before the station knew of the FCC complaint.

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