KDND-FM license challenged over contest

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EntercomTwo media watchdog groups will challenge the license renewal of Entercom’s KDND-FM Sacramento, which was held responsible for the 2009 death of a woman participating in a water-drinking contest. The now-infamous “Hold Your Wee for a Wii” contest had Jennifer Strange, then 28 and a mother of three,  drinking as much water as possible in a three-hour period without going to the bathroom. She drank about two gallons of water and died as a result of apparent “water intoxication” – a dilution of body fluids leading to fatal changes in electrolyte levels.


A Sacramento County Superior Court jury awarded the woman’s husband and other plaintiffs a total of $16.57 million, largely in punitive damages.

The Sacramento Bee reports the Sacramento Media Group and the Media Action Center announced they intend to file legal challenges with the Commission before the 11/1 deadline to contest the station’s pending eight-year broadcast license renewal.

Media Action Center founder Sue Wilson, producer of a 2009 documentary, “Broadcast Blues,” that spotlighted Strange’s death, said the groups intend to formally serve papers challenging KDND’s license renewal when FCC commissioners meet in DC on 10/22. The group’s efforts were also supported by California Common Cause, which advocates on political transparency and media issues.

In a news conference at the Sacramento County courthouse, Wilson noted that a jury had held the radio station liable for Strange’s death, but the FCC has shown no inclination to go after its broadcast license – despite calls from the victim’s family for sanctions against the station.

“In that contest, a woman died,” Wilson said. “However, the Federal Communications Commission has not acted in any way.”

Kevin Geary, a spokesman Entercom said “the events in 2007 were tragic. Our thoughts remain with the family. We will respond to any petition filed with the FCC at the appropriate time.”

See the Sacramento Bee story here

RBR-TVBR observation: In recent years, the FCC has been aggressively enforcing a policy requiring broadcasters to announce all material rules of a contest on the air enough times for a reasonable listener to hear the announcements.  In March, the Commission issued a Notice of Apparent Liability (NAL) and subsequent Forfeiture Order for $4,000 against Journal Broadcast’s KJOT-FM Boise for broadcasting info about a contest “without fully and accurately disclosing all of its material terms.” But this is a bit different and probably didn’t break any specific rules on the books. The fact that the family was awarded $16.6 million for the incident will help the Commission consider that Entercom has already paid dearly for its mistake. It will fully consider these filings and could issue a fine, but we think KDND will keep its license.

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