This one will make you wonder if the government is trying to come up with create ways to pull in a little extra revenue. And, with the FCC planning to hike fees on broadcasters, COVID-19 raging across the country and radio getting hit hard by a severe ad revenue decline, it’s a head-scratcher.
The FCC says Townsquare’s KSII-FM in El Paso violated the Commission’s contest rule by failing to timely award a prize. The incident dates back to March 24, 2017 when the Commission received a complaint from a KSII listener who won tickets to see Elton John. The listener alleged that on November 22, 2016, he was the winning caller during a contest for the concert tickets, but despite repeatedly calling the station to attempt to claim the prize, the station failed to award him the tickets.
The listener states that when he won the contest, a station employee took his information but informed him that the tickets were not yet available and instructed him to call back after the new year. The listener said he called again in January and February, but was told that the tickets still were not available and that the station would contact him when they were. The listener went on to say that he called again about the tickets on March 6, 2017, and a station employee told him that the station would contact him on March 7, 2017. As of March 24, 2017, he had not heard back and filed the complaint stated he felt “played and deceived.”
In response Townsquare told the Commission it failed to award the tickets due to “human error,” but not a willful intent to defraud or deceive, “as evidenced by the fact that four other…winners received their prizes.” The company also told the Commission it was unaware of any issue with the Elton John contest until it received the letter from the agency. Townsquare then contacted the listener and tried to make the situation right by offering him free tickets to Elton John in Las Vegas with free airline and hotel accommodations.”
The Commission decided that wasn’t good enough and the unreasonable delay in awarding the prize constitutes a failure to conduct the contest as announced. And, providing the listener with the Las Vegas tickets, hotel and airfare does not negate the liability for failing to comply with the rule.
The Commission can fine a station a maximum of $4,000 for the contest rule violation. It can increase the fine if there’s a history of violations at the station. There were no other violations at KSII. The Commission can also increase the fine based on other company violations. Well, Townsquare owns over 300 radio stations all over the country. So the Commission found an unnamed Townsquare AM station that was caught operating outside its authorized hours, back in 2012, and from that the Commission determined Townsquare had a history of violations and found a way to add on another $2,000 to the fine.