Although there are currently no rules dictating college or any other radio station must place contest rules or policies online, it’s a good practice to let your listeners know about any conditions that might come with their prize. It’s hard for a DJ or producer to relay a full set of regulations in a 90-second phone call, so having your rules readily available can also help answer listener questions and minimize conflicts.
Here are some questions clusters to consider when drafting contest rules:
- Who do you NOT want to win something? DJs and other station staff are often ineligible to win anything, as they would seemingly have an inside track on when and how prizes are awarded. But what about immediate family (parents, spouses, siblings, children), boy/girlfriends and partners, or roommates? Can they win prizes as long as it isn’t from their relative/cohabitant? If you are part of a larger Student Media department, what about students who work for other media? Should anyone (or everyone) who works for your school be precluded from entering a contest?
- How often can someone win something? Is it okay for someone to win something once a month, once a week, twice a day? Can the same person win multiple pairs of tickets to the same show, for example?
- Are there specific days/times that prizes can be claimed? Can someone show up at midnight on a Sunday? How about the day of the show, an hour before doors open?
- If the prize is for a tangible item, like a CD or T-shirt, how long does the winner have to claim the prize before ownership reverts back to the radio station? A week? Month? Year?
- Can prizes only be claimed by the winner, or can someone else claim a prize on his or her behalf? If so, what does the designee have to do/show/say to claim a prize?
Your contest rules should probably exclude your own staff from winning. The point of a giveaway is to spread the wealth, not keep it all for yourself. You can get around this by asking the promoter or venue for one or two tickets specifically for staff to use.
As for the other questions, there really isn’t a right or wrong answer. Select what will work best for your station, but be open to amend the rules should circumstances change in the future. Before committing to any policy, bring it before your station board of directors and/or full staff. Discuss how you plan to enforce the policy and any resources you will need. Most importantly, remember to apply the rules fairly to everyone.
Who can win?
OWL Radio at Kennesaw State University restricts its contests to current KSU students only and excludes staff members of OWL Radio and all of KSU Student Media along with members of their immediate families. Emerson College’s WERS excludes all WERS and Emerson College employees, staff members, trustees, volunteers, and their families. WSIA at The College of Staten Island allows only one individual per family or household to win a contest.
A number of stations limit how often an individual can win something on air. WBCW at Baldwin Wallace University limits winners to one prize every 40 days. Listeners to Radio K at University of Minnesota can win something once every two weeks.
When/how are prizes claimed?
At Saddleback College’s KSBR, winners must claim their prize within 30 days. WLOY at Loyola University Maryland gives winners just 48 hours to claim a prize before it is returned to the prize pool. Most prizes must be picked up from the main studio offices during the regular 40-hour work week (Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.) or a similar prize redemption schedule.
Rather than maintain times for listeners to claim their bounty, RSU Radio at Rogers State University mails out everything except will call tickets. If you decide you are going to mail out prizes, even just occasionally, you will want to incorporate this language from RSU Radio’s contest rules: The radio station “is not responsible for lost, stolen, or damaged prizes delivered by mail or other physical means.”
KTAI at Texas A&M University-Kingsville stipulates prizes will be released to winners only. WebDCR/WDCR-AM at Dartmouth College allows for “stand-in” winners, but only after the original winner has sent a signed letter authorizing the submission along with a copy of the winner’s license (or other state-issued ID).
Any FCC rules I should know about?
Of course there are! The FCC rules basically state contests should be conducted as advertised and that “material terms” should be disclosed. For the vast majority of college radio contests, “be the third caller now” or “answer this trivia question right” will be sufficient. If your station wants to do a more substantial giveaway with a larger prize, please consult an attorney first.
If you are still at a loss on how to draft contest rules, consider borrowing and/or building on this short and sweet policy from KMSC at Morningside College:
All KMSC listeners other than on-air DJs and staff are eligible for ticket giveaways and other on-air contests.
Ticket giveaway and other contest winners must redeem their prize prior to the event, in the case of ticket giveaways, or the deadline announced over the air in the case of other contests.
Ticket giveaways and other contest prizes must be picked up in the Mass Comm office suite in the HJF Learning Center between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m.
Wait, what about off-air giveaways?
Using Twitter, Facebook or another social media platform for off-air giveaways can also work well for your station. Facebook contests can be challenging, as Facebook pages terms often change. According to Facebook’s most recent terms (updated July 14, 2014), each promotion must include:
a. A complete release of Facebook by each entrant or participant.
b. Acknowledgement that the promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook.
Stations can collect entries by having fans like or comment on a specific post, but the station cannot require a fan to post something on his or her personal timeline to enter a contest. You also need to make sure your radio station is using Facebook as a business page and not a personal profile.
Twitter’s contest guidelines are a little easier. Contests should discourage a user from creating multiple accounts or posting the same tweet repeatedly. Twitter also recommends having followers include a reply to your account so you can see all entries. Otherwise apply the same logic to Twitter giveaways as on-air ones: collect entries using specific criteria and then announce the winner.