9 Goes Missing

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Hits FM gets rap on knuckles for mishandled contest

Get ready, in the next little while, to hear a few words of contrition, from Hits FM to its listeners.

A decision of the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC), announced on July 8, has ruled that CKIX better known as 99.1 Hits FM mishandled a radio contest in the fall of 2008.

The Missing 9 contest generated a bit of buzz last year. It involved a physical number, presumably cut out of plywood or foamcore, that was hidden somewhere in or around St. Johns. Listeners were given a series of on-air clues, during September and October of last year, that were supposed to lead them to the missing 9.

Listeners complained that the contest had been unfair because some of the clues were vague or misleading and because the 9 was ultimately found in a pick-up truck that did not arrive at the final hiding spot until the day the 9 was found, the CBSC said in a press release.

The release explained that, while the contest was underway, the missing 9 went missing for real.

99.1 Hits FM explained that it had moved the 9 part way through the contest due to unforeseen circumstances. The 9 had originally been hidden inside a locker on the premises of a self-storage facility, without the knowledge of that facility. When the company put up a No Trespassing sign, the station was faced with the difficult, if not impossible, task of moving the 9 while still trying to ensure that the previous clues remained valid. Hits FM chose to move the 9 onto a pick-up truck that was then parked just outside the gate of the storage facility.

The decision is a long one, and makes for heavy reading at times, but its encouraging that they took the complaint this seriously, and weighed the mitigating factors so carefully. If youve got a few moments to burn, have a read for yourself. But heres a key piece of information from the decision:

To begin, the Panel considers that the stations decision to hide the 9 in a locked storage room at a privately-owned facility was ill-conceived (although not ill-intentioned), as CKIX-FM itself learned the hard way when the storage facility put up its No Trespassing sign. [...]

[...] The station was then forced to hastily alter its plans, moving the 9 from the locker within the facility to a location outside its locked gate. That was, of course, unfair to those who had already laboured over the clues. The unfairness of the situation was further exacerbated by the fact that the 9 did not arrive at its final hiding place, where it had never before been located, until the morning of October 6. Effectively, in that location, the 9 had not been generally accessible to the public until the truck arrived at the spot, meaning that, even if listeners had been attentive to the clues, they did not have the opportunity to win the month-long contest before that moment.

You can see that Hits FM got itself into a situation, after it was too late to change course, and the improvisation of a solution is what got it in hot water.

Well, lukewarm water. As its punishment, Hits FM is required to announce the CBSC decision on air, two times during peak listening periods. Thats right, just twice. Not a terribly harsh punishment. Heres the decision that Hits FM must read on-air:

The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council has found that CKIX-FM (99.1 Hits FM) has violated Clause 12 of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters Code of Ethics. In its Missing 9 contest of September and October 2008, Hits FM felt obliged to change the location of the missing 9 from inside a private storage facility to the back of a truck on the street outside the facility. Consequently, Hits FM did not ensure that the location of the missing 9 on the final day of the contest was accessible to listeners from the very beginning of the contest. This violated Clause 12 of the CAB Code of Ethics, which requires that contests be conducted fairly.

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