Clear Channel Communications Inc. is being criticized by women's health advocates over a Christmas contest that granted breast enlargement surgeries to women in four cities.
The "Breast Christmas Ever" contest was aired in Tampa, Jacksonville, St. Louis and Detroit, and has drawn the ire of the National Research Center for Women & Families and the National Organization for Women. NOW has urged its supporters to file complaints against the company and its stations with the Federal Communications Commission.
The controversy comes within months of Clear Channel paying a record $1.75-million fine to resolve indecency complaints against New York-based shock jock Howard Stern, Tampa radio personality Bubba the Love Sponge Clem and others. The company formally agreed to "clean up its act," FCC chairman Michael Powell said in June.
Though neither group is alleging that the breast surgery contest violated decency standards, they are complaining that it promoted potentially dangerous surgery and left its winners with no legal remedies if the surgery went awry. Under the rules, winners, who had to be at least 18, had to sign a waiver protecting the company from all liability claims.
NOW is urging the public to send e-mails to Clear Channel and the FCC to complain about what it considers a "degrading and unethical contest." About 3,400 messages had been sent, NOW said Monday.
"It's not a decency issue, it's a health issue, and it's a women's self-esteem issue," NOW president Kim Gandy said.
David Fiske, a spokesman for the FCC, said the agency does not regulate the content of radio station contests unless the contest violates decency standards. The FCC requires radio stations to conduct contests only exactly by the stated rules and to fully disclose the contest's terms.
Clear Channel said last week that it had nothing to do with the contest and that local station managers decided to hold it in the weeks leading up to Christmas. Still, in Tampa station WFLZ's Breast Christmas Ever rules posted on the station's Web site, the station said Clear Channel Broadcasting was conducting the contest.
WFLZ-FM 93.3 general manager Dan DiLoreto declined Monday to explain the discrepancy between the Web site and Clear Channel's explanation. He also declined to comment on the groups' criticisms.
The Tampa contest, airing during the MJ Morning Show, had more than 91,000 entries, the station said. A dozen women were awarded the surgeries, which were to be performed by William Adams, a St. Petersburg plastic surgeon, who did not return calls for comment Monday. The doctor's Web site includes presurgery and postoperative pictures of MJ Morning Show winners but does not say when the surgery was done.
"Monsters' pulled from air
Meanwhile, Monsters in the Morning, the controversial radio show that replaced the even more controversial Bubba the Love Sponge Clem, will no longer air on another local Clear Channel station, WXTB-FM 97.9 (98 Rock), the station announced Monday. The Orlando-based show came under fire for its use of racial epithets, but in the end, that's not what did it in. Rather, officials said, local listeners wanted a locally produced show.
"Research conducted has told us that Tampa Bay wants a show that reflects the views and needs of the young adult listener; it is our goal to find that show," said WXTB regional vice president/programming Brad Hardin in a statement Monday.
Station officials could not be reached for further comment.
After an article in the St. Petersburg Times about the show's racial, ethnic and sexual orientation, a rebuke from St. Petersburg city officials and complaints from a local NAACP president, Clear Channel Radio removed the shock jock radio team from the air in July for sensitivity training. Clear Channel returned it to the air July 19.
For now, the station is airing music, news and traffic in the 6 to 10 a.m. slot, hosted by longtime personality Ron Michaels.