On-Air Comments about Radio Contest Draw Were Misleading, Says Canadian Broadcast Standards Council

Ottawa, July 17, 2019 – The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning on-air comments about a contest broadcast on KiSS FM Ottawa (CISS-FM). The CBSC concluded that the station violated the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ (CAB) Code of Ethics for broadcasting misleading information about eligibility for the first of two draws to win a trip to Jamaica.

KiSS FM Ottawa ran a contest in January 2019 for two trips to Jamaica. To enter the contest, listeners had to send a text message to the station in response to a question or topic posed by the hosts. Winners were then randomly selected from amongst those entrants. The first draw was on January 11 and the second on January  18. According to the contest rules, the draws took place at 6:00 am in Ottawa. The draws occurred off-air and the winners were not announced on air until later in the morning. On January 11, the hosts of the morning show talked about the contest. Even after 6:00 am, the hosts encouraged listeners to send in texts, specifically stating those texts would be entered into the first draw. The winner was not announced until 8:12 am.

A listener complained that the hosts’ statements were inaccurate and misleading, since, if KiSS had followed the contest rules, the draw had actually already taken place at 6:00 am. In his view, anyone texting between 6:00 am and 8:12 am were therefore “wasting their time”. The station responded that the draw had indeed been done at 6:00 am in accordance with the official rules and the hosts’ comments had simply been to build excitement and provide dramatic effect. Moreover, the station emphasized that any entrants who either did not win the first draw or submitted texts after the first draw would be entered into the second draw. In the station’s view, regardless of any on-air statements, no entrants were disadvantaged.

The CBSC English-Language Panel examined the complaint under Clause 12 of the CAB Code of Ethics, which states that contests shall not be misleading. The Panel concluded that the verbal inducements to enter for the first draw when that draw had actually already taken place were misleading, contrary to the code. The Panel acknowledged that stations want to build excitement for their contests and that the hosts had not intended to be misleading, but they did give listeners the false impression that there were still two chances to win when really there was only one.

The CBSC was created in 1990 by Canada’s private broadcasters to administer the codes of standards that they established for their industry. The CBSC currently administers 5 codes which deal with ethics, equitable portrayal, violence, news and journalistic independence. Around 800 radio stations, satellite radio services, conventional and discretionary television services across Canada participate in the Council.

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All CBSC decisions, codes, and related information are available on the CBSC’s website at www.cbsc.ca. For more information, please contact CBSC Chair, Sylvie Courtemanche, at scourtemanche@cbsc.ca or by telephone at 613-233-4607.