Written by Radio

Serial Competition Winners

Here’s a little known fact: it’s easier to win radio competitions than you might think.
Most people assume that there are thousands of people phoning in to try to win tickets, cash, a holiday or maybe even a car. But the truth is that it can be easier than you think to get through. I’m not talking about premium rate type affairs like ITV Play that limit the number of calls that even get through – I mean your regular common or garden radio contests, known as promotions in the trade, because they’re usually paid for.
Of course for really big prizes, it’s not quite so easy, but you’d still be surprised.
I’m not the only person who knows this sort of thing, and littered around the internet are forums and groups full of competition junkies. They regularly post details of new contests, answers to the questions and so on. From what I’ve read, if you put in the effort, you can make it pay, with valuable prizes being won by these regular entrants all the time.
Indeed a few years ago, one of these groups realised that a specific competition was almost certainly fraudulent because none of their members had won one of the copious prizes that were said to be on offer. When they considered the number of entries they’d cumulatively made to the competition, a bit of basic statistics revealed that they certainly should have won at least one prize, and probably many more.
Let’s return to radio for a moment.
It’s not normally in a radio station’s best interests that the same contestants win all that stations’ prizes. Listeners begin to recognise the same people winning all the time if they do, and will probably become disenchanted with the station. One of radio’s great strengths is that it becomes a friend to you in a way that other media can’t. The listeners may not enter competitions themselves, but they want to hear different people win great prizes. It’s why TV game shows down the ages have always been popular – Deal Or No Deal being the most recent phenomenon; you don’t know the people especially, but you’re happy for them when they win.
So radio stations tend to have rules that try to “spread the love” a little. My own employer’s rules state that:
Anyone who has won a prize within the last twelve months on a Virgin Radio station or virginradio.co.uk valued at £100 or more shall not be eligible to enter the competition, nor shall any member of such person’s family (including, but not limited to, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents etc).
So you can win more a single pair of concert tickets in a year, but you can’t win a car one week and £25,000 the next. It’s only fair to let a few different people win.
Similarly Magic 105.4 FM in London has some quite specific rules for its competitions too:
A person or people at the same residential address may not win more than one prize valued at £500 or greater within a one-year period following the first win.
But here are some other rules that Magic has in place for its competitions:
You must enter the Competition using your legal name.
We reserve the right to disqualify any entrant if we have reasonable grounds to believe the entrant has breached any of these Competition Terms.
You may only enter the Competition as an individual, any entries that, in our absolute discretion, have been made via participation in a syndicate will be disqualified.
We reserve the right, in our absolute discretion, to request a proof of identity and address in the form of your passport and driving licence, proof of your address in the form of a utility bill and proof of you vocal identity with an in-studio recording compared to your on air win audio.
A couple of odd ones there. Why does it worry about syndicates? And voice tests?
All becomes a little (but not much) clearer when you see a statement that’s posted on the Magic FM website. Magic has a popular competition called “Mystery Voices” in which you have to guess the identities of three famous people from a very brief piece of audio. It’s very hard, and each day that the competition continues, the prize fund increases.
Last time around it reached £168,600 before someone won the competition.
But according to Magic’s statement:
Given the large sum of money involved and in accordance with our terms and conditions, we required the winner to provide proof of identity and to undertake a voice recognition test to satisfy the company that the participant had complied with the rules of the competition.
As a result of these exercises, Magic concluded that there was a serious breach of the competition rules, resulting in the judges’ final decision to disqualify the winner.

Now I don’t know the specifics of this instance, and in case there’s any legal action pending, I’ll talk hypothetically.
Hypothetically it’s possible that someone has a “syndicate” of friends and colleagues who try to enter competitions. Perhaps they withold Caller ID to prevent stations seeing the same numbers come up. By using sheer weight of numbers (they might have additional lines installed at home), they get through to the station on a regular basis. They do still have to get the competition right. But if they’ve won recently before, it’s a bit of a problem. The competition’s rules say that they can’t enter if they’ve won in the last 12 months. But they’ve got a friend’s name and details who can replace theirs. This “friend” hasn’t entered a competition on the station. The entrant names that person as the winner – they can share the cash out appropriately later.
But the station’s a little clever, and wants to see a recording of the voice that called in is the same as the voice of the person who turns up to collect their cash. No match – no cheque. This is all hypothetical mind.
There are other oddities, hypothetically, used by “winners.”
No they can’t write the cheque in someone else’s name because the winner “doesn’t have a bank account.”
The station can’t put the holiday in someone else’s name because “their cousin’s going instead,” and not at all because they’ve auctioned the holiday on eBay to someone else.
Yes you do have to come into London to collect your prize, and I’m sorry that you’re “agoraphobic” – you’re still needed here. We’ve got wheelchair access.
Why does your passport look defaced? Isn’t that illegal?
Hypothetically speaking, of course.
For the most part of course, winners don’t have to jump through hoops. Stations are just happy to dole out the prizes and move along to the next competition. Happy listeners, happy station with happy audio making for great programming. But stations wouldn’t just want the same people to keep winning, particularly when their tactics might disadvantage other listeners. Hence stories like this one.
[As this entry is all about radio, I should reiterate that views mentioned here are mine and mine alone, and do not necessarily reflect those of my employer. Having said that…]