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FCC Approves Online Option for Contest Rules

The FCC has unanimously approved a proposal, spearheaded by commissioner Michael O'Rielly, that allows radio and TV outlets to post contest information online if they choose, rather than having to fit lengthy text or fast-talking audio on-air.

The FCC voted unanimously in November 2014 to propose the change and FCC chairman Tom Wheeler circulated an order to that effect last month.

The FCC commissioners said it was an example of the FCC's efforts to square its rules with how folks are getting information these days and give broadcasters more flexibility in meeting their contest rule obligations. It does mean that if a broadcaster opts for online, a viewer must have access to broadband to check out the rules.

Broadcasters are still required to provide timely and accurate information about contests, and the online version must be easy to access. That means broadcasting the Internet address periodically on-air, and a tab or link on the home page to that information.

The contest information must remain on the site for 30 days after the contest ends.

Broadcasters can still satisfy their obligation with on-air info, but now have the option to put it online.

"We are moving old concepts to new realities," said FCC chairman Tom Wheeler. Commissioner Ajit Pai, who had also called for the change, fast-talked the end of his statement, mimicking the contest info audio that can now be replaced with online. Commissioner Mignon Clyburn noted that the days of the fast-talkers were numbered.

The FCC last year changed its rules to allow devices with screens and FCC information notice requirements to put that information online rather than having to affix stickers or etch the info on the devices themselves. Another case of using the unlimited space of the Web for consumer advisories.

"NAB applauds the FCC for updating its contest rules to better reflect today’s media environment," said NAB spokesman Dennis Wharton. "Providing flexibility about where and how contest rules can be posted online allows broadcasters to best serve our audiences based on the wide variety of contests we run. NAB looks forward to working collaboratively with the FCC to help radio and TV stations adhere to these revised rules."

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.