Tuesday, May 09, 2000

Florida reins in radio contests

        The Florida attorney general has curbed Clear Channel's deceptive group contest practices and urged other states to do the same.

        Clear Channel was fined $80,000 last week by Florida under the state's Unfair and Deceptive Trade Protection Act and ordered to be more forthcoming with Florida listeners about multistate contests.

        According to Stephen Iglesias, assistant attorney general, the radio group headquartered in Covington must make these changes on Florida stations:

        • Make it clear to listeners that “(radio) group contests are multistate” contests three times a day during peak listening hours — 7-9 a.m., 11 a.m.-1 p.m and 4-6 p.m. — during contests.

        • The broadcast of contest rules, as required by the Federal Communications Commission, must occur between 6 a.m. and midnight. Stations are prohibited from broadcasting contest rules overnight (midnight-6 a.m.).

        “They seem to be running the contest rules at 2 a.m., or 3 a.m. or 4 a.m.,” Mr. Iglesias says.

        • If stations broadcast an interview with a winner, they “must disclose the city/state where winner resides,” he says.

        • Stations cannot edit “the voice of an out-of-state winner with the voice of a local radio personality to make it sound as if the winner was local,” he says.

        Clear Channel did not admit to any violation of law signing the “Assurance of Voluntary Compliance Agreement,” he says.

        Florida began investigating Clear Channel in December, after receiving complaints about a “Double Play Pay Day” contest on a Tallahassee country music station, he says.

        Although the restrictions only apply in Florida, Mr. Iglesias says they could spread to other states. The Arkansas attorney general has expressed an interest in the Florida investigation, he says.

        “I encourage other states attorney generals to call us, if they're interested,” he says.

        “If other states took up this issue with Clear Channel, it would change their contest practices. Frequently states get together for multistate issues,” he says, citing the tobacco industry settlement.

        STARTED HERE: Multistate radio contests were pioneered by Jacor Communications (now Clear Channel) on WVMX-FM (94.1) and other “MIX” stations two years ago. Now Clear Channel does national contests in many formats.

        In the past, MIX94.1 has broadcast lucky winners' comments without revealing their city or state, hiding the fact that nearly three dozen stations from coast to cast are playing the contest.

        WEBN-FM (102.7) last year did not name the winner's city or state for its daily vacation trips. There were no local winners for the 20 prizes given away by 50 Clear Channel stations.

        Clear Channel stations here are conducting two multistate contests:

        WVMX-FM: The MIX “$10,000 Song of the Day” is being played simultaneously by 35 stations from Massachusetts to California. The stations will award 39 cash prizes of $10,000 to the 25th caller to a toll-free number weekdays between April 3 and May 26.

        WEBN-FM: During the “Harley Days of May,” 49 Clear Channel stations are giving away 20 Harley-Davidson motorcycles, each valued at $7,000. One is awarded each weekday May 1-26 to the 25th caller to a national toll-free number.

        Clear Channel stations say they broadcast contest rules here, on a rotating schedule, throughout the day.


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