Who: U105 FM (a Northern Irish commercial radio station, part of UTV Media plc) and Ofcom
Where: Northern Ireland
When: 7 and 8 March 2015
Law stated as at: 6 July 2015
U105 FM (“U105”) regularly runs the “Winning Weekend Competition” (the “Competition”), which offers multiple prizes in different shows across a Saturday and Sunday. On the weekend of 7 and 8 March 2015, the competition offered ten prizes across ten shows. In each of the shows, the presenter gave a “cue to call” and the fifteenth caller was put on air to answer a question in order to win a prize.
Ofcom received a complaint from a listener who had won the prizes on offer during “The Jerry Lang Show” on 7 March and “Not the Top 40” on 8 March. The listener answered the questions correctly and was announced as the winner on both shows. In addition, after being announced the winner for the second time, the listener informed the presenter of “Not the Top 40” that they had also won a prize on the previous day. Two days later the listener received a call from U105, explaining that the terms and conditions of the Competition did not permit entrants to win multiple prizes. Therefore, the listener was ineligible to receive the second prize won.
Ofcom reviewed both shows and found that there was no information prohibiting previous winners from entering. Therefore, Ofcom investigated the matter under the following rules of the Ofcom Broadcasting Code (the “Code”):
- Rule 2.13: “Broadcast competitions…must be conducted fairly“; and
- Rule 2.15: “Broadcasters must draw up rules for a broadcast competition… These rules must be clear and appropriately made known. In particular, significant conditions that may affect a viewers or listener’s decision to participate must be stated at the time an invitation to participate is broadcast“.
U105 explained that: it only identified that the listener had won two prizes when the shows sent the details of their winners to a team that contacts winners; and, more importantly, that its presenters were briefed to read a line to refer listeners to the full terms and conditions of the Competition on U105’s website. However, U105 accepted that, on this occasion, the line was not read in either of the shows concerned. Despite this omission, U105 maintained that the Competition was conducted fairly and the rules were clear as they were available on their website.
Ofcom concluded that:
- the failure to advise potential entrants of the Competition of the specific eligibility exclusion breached Rule 2.15; and
- excluding the listener’s win was unfair and a breach of Rule 2.13, as the listener should have been informed of the condition when the invitation to participate was broadcast, rather than after the Competition had ended.
In addition, Ofcom noted that it was particularly concerned by U105’s “assertion” that a general reference to its online terms and conditions would, “in its view”, be sufficient to comply with the Code.
Why this matters:
The case serves as a reminder of the Code and the standards expected of radio broadcasters by Ofcom. In particular, Ofcom said:
“We remind all broadcasters that important conditions must either be broadcast or made clear to potential participants as appropriate.”
Therefore, similar to sales promotion rules in the CAP Code, simply stating “terms and conditions are available online” may be insufficient to fully inform listeners of the relevant conditions that may affect their decision to participate.