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Regulations FAQs

Contest and On-Air Rules

What are the rules concerning Indian Gaming?: Federal Law: Under the Charity Gaming Act (federal lottery law), broadcasters are generally allowed to advertise, promote, and provide information about lotteries conducted by non-profit groups and governmental entities provided there are no state restrictions prohibiting the advertising of such information AND provided that the contest, lottery or casino is legal in the state in which it is conducted. In addition, advertising of lotteries and contests conducted by commercial entities is also permitted, provided the lottery is conducted on an occasional basis and is ancillary to the entity’s primary business, and provided the lottery or contest is legal under state law. To avoid an FCC fine, conditional renewal or revocation of license, the broadcasting of contests, lotteries and advertisements for casinos must be conducted properly. Three elements must be present for a contest to be deemed a lottery:

  • Prize: something of value must be offered to the contestant, regardless of how small the prize is or in what form it is presented.
  • Chance: the element of chance must be present. Chance is present when the winner or the value of the prize is determined wholly or partly by chance, and not totally by skill. Chance is also present in a tie-breaking procedure where the winner is determined by chance.
  • Consideration: the element of consideration is present when an item of value, such as payment of money or the expenditure of substantial time or energy by a participant, is part of the promotional plan. The following are examples of “consideration”: making a purchase, admission charge, cover charge, requiring possession of a product or proof of purchase, requiring frequent visits to a store, test driving a car where the salesperson goes along. To determine whether consideration is present, you should ask yourself “is the person who is promoting the contest receiving any percentage of the fee it costs to enter the contest, or anything else of value from the contestant?
State Law: Although federal law allows the promotion of many types of lotteries, broadcasters should check their state law before airing or advertising what may be considered lotteries. Individual states may have additional restrictions. For example in New Mexico:
  • Non-profit lotteries are permitted, but only two lotteries per year per organization are allowed and all proceeds are expended in state for public purposes.
  • No part of the proceeds can go to any individual or employee of the organization.
  • Non-profits can also conduct bingo and raffles.
  • On the commercial side, drawings at fairs are allowed if the proceeds benefit certain organizations.
  • Movie theaters can offer prizes (cash and merchandise for advertising purposes).
  • Only lawful non-profit lotteries may be advertised. Lawful non-profit bingo or raffles, however, cannot be advertised.

What are the rules about running a contest on my station?: The FCC defines a contest as any arrangement in which a prize (or anything of value) is offered to the public. The FCC license-conducted contest rule applies to all contests where the station is the promoter or co-promoter. Broadcasters are reminded that any contest advertised on their stations, whether or not conducted by the licensee, must not be misleading or deceptive. Material terms of all promotions and contests conducted by a station must be disclosed by announcements broadcast on the station conducting the contest. Typically, a material term is any factor which a person would take into consideration in deciding whether to enter the contest. Material terms generally include, but are not limited to:

  1. How to enter or participate.
  2. Eligibility requirements.
  3. Entry deadlines.
  4. Whether prizes can be won.
  5. When prizes can be won.
  6. The extent, value and nature of the prizes.
  7. Time and means of selecting winners.
  8. Tie-breaking procedures.
  9. Any change in material terms once the contest is started must be broadcast as soon as possible.
The terms of a promotion or contest held on the station’s website do not need to be disclosed on the air; however, if the contest or promotion’s existence on the website is mentioned on the air, the terms must also be disclosed.

What are my obligations concerning copyrighted material?: Copyright law is based on the idea that society will benefit from the creation and dissemination of artistic and intellectual works. Copyright law encourages such activities by providing creators with a statutory monopoly over their artistic and intellectual work because it generally affords copyright owners the exclusive rights to perform publicly, reproduce and distribute their creative work. Copyright law does not protect ideas or facts, but only the creator’s particular expression of those ideas or facts. Thus, a creator can seek copyright protection only for something that has been reduced to concrete form by being “fixed in any tangible meaning of expression”. (e.g., manuscripts, films, tapes, etc.) A broadcaster owns the copyright in a program it has created as soon as that program is fixed (“taped”). Pursuant to the Copyright Act of 1976, broadcasters have compulsory licenses to use published non-dramatic musical, pictorial, graphic and sculptural works in broadcast programs. They must, however, get permission to use all dramatic works that are “audiovisual” in nature (movies, television programs and filmstrips) and all non-dramatic literary works.

Are there any rules regarding trademark?: The trademark system permits those providing goods or services to the public to protect distinctive identifying names, words, symbols and devices. “Trademark” is the term used to protect goods, while the term “Service mark” is used to identify proprietary services (e.g. the title for a program series). The primary function of either mark is to identify origin, thus distinguishing between goods and/or services of the user from those of others. The Trademark Act of 1946 (commonly referred to as the “Lanham Act”) governs the federal trademark registration application process administered by the Patent and Trademark Office. Federal registration entitles the owner of a mark to protection in its areas of operation, and potentially throughout the country, against subsequent users of a confusingly similar mark to identify similar goods or services.