Radio contests, should, in theory, be quite simple: offer a cool prize for a cool challenge to draw in listeners. Sometimes, however, radio stations think cool means “horribly tasteless” or “exceedingly dangerous”, and then things like this happen:
Some people will go to great lengths to see their favorite band or artist live in concert, so radio stations have long hosted contests to win tickets to such events. Some have more trouble drawing the line than others, as KOMP 92.3-FM of Las Vegas demonstrated in 1999.
DJ Greg McFarlane was trying to think up a radio contest for listeners to win Mötley Crüe tickets, and after he used his idea of making them re-enact the Pamela Anderson-Tommy Lee sex tape live on-air (albeit clothed) he was stumped. But, in a flash of inspiration, he decided he would make listeners drink a few ounces of his own urine (presumably after consulting a group of five year old children).
Three contestants actually came into the studio prepared to face the challenge, but got cold feet when they realized McFarlane was in no way kidding. Then, in McFarlane’s own words, “The fourth guy walks in, pushes everyone out of the way and throws it down like it was Pepsi.” So congrats to that guy, for winning tickets to the show, and condolences to McFarlane, who was immediately fired.
Weddings can be expensive. So BRMB radio in Birmingham, England, generously offered to cover the costs of matrimony for one lucky couple. There was a tiny catch, however—they would only do it if the couple agreed to walk down the aisle nude.
The winners of 65% of a listener vote, Kelly Clinton and Lee Wiggets, had been together for eleven years but had never married due to financial concerns. So they jumped on BRMB’s offer to cover all their expenses, and got married on March 15, 2011, wearing almost nothing but their birthday suits. The groom used a top hat to cover his crotch (which is admittedly a pretty classy way to cover one’s crotch), and the bride was able to wear a veil and some barely-there underwear.
An inability to conceive is undoubtedly one of the biggest problems a couple can face, and is sure to come packaged with its share of frustration and anxiety. Luckily for citizens of Ottawa, Ontario, local radio station Hot 89.9 was there to capitalize on that frustration and anxiety.
In 2011, Hot 89.9 started a contest called “Win a Baby” in which one couple would be chosen by listener vote to receive in-vitro fertility (IVF) treatments, a value of around $35 000. The contest naturally came under fire for commoditizing babies, as well as taking a financial and emotional problem for many couples and turning it into a popularity contest. To its credit, in spite of being pretty tasteless, it did promote political discussion about the lack of government aided IVF treatments in Ontario.
Sadly, most of us will never get an opportunity to attend our own funerals. But listeners of the German radio station Radio Galaxy in Aschaffenburg, north Bavaria, got the next best thing when they were presented with a chance to win their funeral.
No, the radio station wasn’t going to kill anyone (that’ll be later on the list). Instead, listeners sent in their own epitaphs in the hopes of winning 3000 Euros (around $4195 at the time of the contest) to be spent on death insurance, which would cover funeral costs. For those who don’t know, an epitaph is simply the writing on one’s tombstone. For example, the epitaph on the tombstone of Mel Blanc, the voice of Bugs Bunny, is “That’s all folks”. Winston Churchill’s is “I am ready to meet my Maker. Whether my Maker is prepared for the great ordeal of meeting me is another matter.”
Not everyone has such a sense of humor about death, however, and the radio station came under some criticism including a lawsuit from the Association of German Undertakers.
When people have trouble getting a date, there’s only one place to turn: radio contests. One of these people, a man named Travis Harvey, did just that, and wound up the subject of Waukegan radio station WXLC’s “Win a Date with Travis” contest. It was a fairly straightforward contest, and a woman going by the name Jane Doe ended up winning herself a date with the man the station hailed as a “kind” and “great guy”.
Except he wasn’t, though, because he raped her. Originally slated to take her out to dinner, he told her he was too tired and instead invited her to his home for dinner. After one drink she felt extremely drowsy, and that’s when Harvey raped her.
Can this one really be blamed on the radio station? Doe thinks so, as she began a lawsuit against parent company NextMedia for $50,000 worth of damages. She insists they were negligent by not doing a background check on Harvey, who had been twice convicted of violating a domestic order of protection that had previously been taken out by another woman. She also sued Harvey, who pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting her.
90.3 Amp Radio in Calgary, Alberta, in response to the body issues that many women have as a result of the glorified and pervasive images of airbrushed female models and celebrities, held a contest in which those same women could compete for a breast augmentation operation (hey, I didn’t say it was a helpful response).
The contest was called “The Breast Summer Ever” (because nothing goes together like sexual degradation and puns), and all contestants had to do was submit pictures of themselves and reasons for wanting to get the surgery. The reaction to the contest was mixed; some listeners were disgusted, though hundreds of people entered the contest.
In the end the winner was a transgender known only as Avery, who received 76% of the 30 000 online votes. Avery said in an interview that the breast implants will help her to not “have to face so much bigotry on a daily basis,” so the contest at least ended up helping someone in need.
German radio station RTL 89.0 had a MINI Cooper to give away, but they couldn’t be bothered to actually come up with a contest to do so. So they pretty much shrugged their shoulders and said they’d give it away to whoever would perform the craziest stunt.
Enter 39 year old Andreas Muller. Muller, who really, really liked MINI Coopers, needed a way to top the list. So he decided to offer up some valuable skin real estate and get a tattoo of the word MINI, in the one place where showing it off in public would likely get him arrested (his penis, for those who skipped the title and/or are really slow). Yes, this man really did get the word MINI permanently inked onto his Cooper, and he did it live on air with the female host looking on. And yes, he got the car.
If you’ve ever thought of a wife as something to be won in a contest, then you’re not alone! Because apparently there are a lot of radio stations who share your point of view.
100.3 The Bear in Edmonton, Alberta is one of many examples of radio stations that have offered the chance to win a foreign bride, and all of them have been highly criticized for demeaning women. The Bear’s “Win a Wife” contest sent the winner to Russia to be taken care of by a matchmaking service called Volga Girl.
Another radio station called Q104, in Halifax, Nova Scotia, created a contest called “The Male is in the Czech” where the winner would be flown to Prague, in the Czech Republic, to participate in a “dating-service” and the opportunity to pick a bride. The contest met with protestors who showed their disapproval by picketing the station. Also, because they were going for completely tactless, the last day of the contest was on International Woman’s Day.
Oh, and New Zealand radio station The Rock FM (we’ll talk more about them later) got in on the fun, too, sponsoring their own contest in which the winner would be flown to the Ukraine to pick a bride from an agency. After complaints, they changed the name of the contest from “Win a Wife” to, no kidding, the “Win A Trip To Beautiful Ukraine For 12 Nights And Meet Eastern European Hot Lady Who Maybe One Day You Marry” contest.
It’s starting to become clear that radio stations will turn anything into a contest, as long as they can make a pun out it. “Hold Your Wee for a Wii”, sponsored by KDND 107.9 of Sacramento, California, is no exception. And yes, it’s exactly what it sounds like.
This was back in 2007, when people were still pretty excited about the Nintendo Wii. As it happened, KDND 107.9 had themselves one and were willing to part with it to the listener who could go the longest without urinating. Every fifteen minutes, contestants were given eight ounces of water. The last one to break and go to the bathroom would win.
As it turns out, people don’t just urinate for fun, and holding it in can lead to some big consequences. For one of the competitors, a woman named Jennifer Strange, the consequence was death. Strange drank around seven and a half litres of water before relieving herself, and died hours later of a condition called acute water intoxication. This tragic turn of events resulted in 10 employees of the radio station being fired, as well as a lawsuit that resulted in a 16.5 million dollar settlement for Strange’s family.
New Zealand radio station The Rock FM needed a contest for Valentine’s Day 2012, but didn’t want to deal with annoying restrictions like basic human decency. So DJs Jono Pryor and Robert Taylor came up with a brilliant idea for a prize: they would take care of all the costs of one lucky couple’s divorce. Provided the breakup occur live on-air, of course.
The Rock ended up choosing a winner, whose name was Sam. Sam (a woman) was scheduled to call her husband Andy on February 14, 2012, and tell him that she was leaving him. Instead of a depressing and heartbreaking phone call, what happened next was actually pretty awesome.
When the DJs called who they thought was Sam’s husband Andy, a woman answered. Confused, they asked if they were speaking with Andy, and the woman answered, “No, it’s not Andy and it’s never gonna be Andy and it wasn’t Andy to start with, you fucking idiots.” It turns out it was Sam’s lesbian partner Amber, who with Sam proceeded to tell Pryor and Taylor exactly how terrible they are and how disgusting their contest was.
The hosts clearly had no idea how to react, and pretty much just let themselves be berated. At one point one of them said “I feel like I’m in an episode of Scooby Doo, and we’re finally figuring out how you caught us out, and we woulda gotten away with it if it weren’t for you dastardly lesbians.” So, lesson learned? By the way, it’s really the kind of sabotage that has to be heard to appreciate fully.
Michael Alba is on twitter @MichaelPaulAlba. Follow him for your chance to win a baby!