Station’s Contest Offering Las Vegas Vacation Prize Not in Breach of Code, Says Canadian Broadcast Standards Council

Ottawa, May 16, 2006 – The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning a CJOB-AM (Winnipeg) “Spin to Win” contest that took place on September 30, 2005.  The offer was of “a trip for two to the entertainment capital of the world, Las Vegas, including luxury hotel accommodation.”  A contestant who had called the station on a timely basis and had won the trip for her and her husband complained that the station was unable to co-ordinate convenient dates, had not properly or fairly concluded the arrangements for the contest and that, in effect, “the station [had] participated in a promotion with no apparent prize available.” 

CJOB acknowledged that “the supplier did not have complete information at [the] time [of the contest], which is normal at the beginning of the travel season.”  At the same time, the contestant contacted the trip supplier directly, as well as several people at the station.  In her letter of October 24, the station’s Operations Manager “apologize[d] if the trip information was not available as quickly as you wished” but did point out that the prize was, as of that date, available for pick-up at the station.  Since many of the issues associated with the complaint resolution involved factual determinations (such as who said what, when, to whom, and the like), which fall outside the mandate of the CBSC, the Council was unable to decide these matters.  The Panel did, however, note that it  

appreciate[d] the deep-felt concerns of the complainants and note[d] that many of these could have been avoided had the arrangements been less loose, the rules clearer (it is not evident from the broadcaster’s correspondence whether they were posted on the CJOB website), and the station more prepared for its winner at the time of the on-air launch of the contest.  Such organizational preparedness would also have resolved such issues as what would have amounted to a “reasonable” period of time for the contestant and her husband to have been able to arrange their affairs so as to avail themselves of the holiday in Las Vegas. 

These organizational inefficiencies did not, however, amount to a breach of the Contests and Promotions Clause of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters (CAB) Code of Ethics.  Nor did the Panel find any fault with the fairness or legitimacy of the contest.  

As to whether the prizes offered or promises made were what they were represented to be, the Panel can find no fault with the station.  The on-air representation was “A trip for two to the entertainment capital of the world, Las Vegas, including luxury hotel accommodation courtesy of Jet Vacations.”  Can one argue that Las Vegas is not the “entertainment capital of the world”?  Perhaps (although the complainants did not).  Can one argue that the hotel accommodation was not “luxury” accommodation?  Perhaps (and the complainants did).  Apart from the fact that the name and nature of the hotel were not disclosed (not that the Panel would purport to be able to assess such information), the Panel considers that both examples of descriptive language constitute nothing more serious than reasonable puffery.  There is no indication that the prizes offered or promises made were other than what they were represented to be. 

Canada’s private broadcasters have themselves created industry standards in the form of Codes on ethics, gender portrayal and television violence by which they expect the members of their profession will abide.  In 1990, they also created the CBSC, which is the self-regulatory body with the responsibility of administering those professional broadcast Codes, as well as the Code dealing with journalistic practices first created by the Radio Television News Directors Association of Canada (RTNDA) in 1970.  More than 590 radio and television stations and specialty services from across Canada are members of the Council. 

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All CBSC decisions, Codes, links to members' and other web sites, and related information are available on the CBSC's website at www.cbsc.ca. For more information, please contact the CBSC National Chair, Mme Andrée Noël CBSC Executive Director, John MacNab