FCC fines radio broadcasters for contest violations

Two radio stations in Texas — one in El Paso, the other in Houston — didn't follow federal rules.
The logo of the FCC. (Image: Handout, Graphic: The Desk)

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has issued a pair of fines against two Texas radio stations for failing to comply with federal rules concerning radio contests.

In both cases, the radio stations were investigated after listeners complained to the agency that prizes they won in station contests weren’t delivered.

TownSquare Media, the operator of more than 300 radio stations, will pay a $6,000 fine after its El Paso pop station KSII (93.1 FM, “Kiss FM”) promised to give a contest winner tickets to see Elton John.

Shortly after winning the contest, the listeners said they reached out to KSII employees to pick up the tickets, only to be told they’d have to wait until the following year because the tickets weren’t available.

The listener contacted KSII multiple times over the course of four months to ask about the tickets. On March 24, 2017, the contest winner filed a formal complaint with the FCC.

During the investigation, a TownSquare employee confirmed the details of the contest, but said the station had no record of giving the winner their tickets as promised. TownSquare attributed the issue to a “breakdown in communications and procedure at the station,” the FCC said.

The contest winner was eventually offered airfare and tickets to see Elton John in Las Vegas.

The FCC said the $6,000 fine imposed against TownSquare relates to an agency rule that requires stations to provide a deadline for claiming a prize after a contest ends.

In the other case, the FCC says a sports radio station owned by Gow Media also failed to deliver a prize on time.

In that case, a listener won a fantasy football contest run by Mont Belview, Texas sports radio station KFNC (97.5 FM, “ESPN Houston”). The prize in that contest was an all-expenses paid trip to a resort in Mexico.

The radio station held the contest in 2016. For two years, the listener tried to claim the prize, only to be given the run-around by station officials. In October 2018, the listener finally complained to the FCC.

A station official interviewed by the FCC as part of its investigation placed the blame on the resort. As part of the contest, the station agreed to promote the resort in exchange for awarding a prize to the listener. But when the station contacted the resort for the prize, the resort “reneged on its commitment.”

Gow Media said the station’s promotional director “failed to inform management that the resort operator had withdrawn the prize and did not take immediate action to resolve the failure to award the advertised prize,” the FCC said.

Instead of the resort stay, the contest winner accepted $3,600 in cash — more than double the value of the resort stay, Gow Media said — and signed a settlement agreement with the company.

The FCC said that consolation prize wasn’t good enough because Gow Media only made the offer after it was informed that an investigation had started.

“Although it appears Gow Media ultimately took steps to resolve this issue, such steps were not undertaken until after our investigation commenced,” the FCC said. The agency added that the consolation prize didn’t absolve Gow Media of its obligation to award the advertised prize to the contest winner.

The FCC proposed a $5,200 fine against Gow Media because it didn’t conduct “the contest substantially as announced or advertise.”

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