US radio giant Clear Channel Communications has come under fire from women's health advocates over a Christmas contest in which stations granted breast enlargement surgeries to women in four cities.
In the "Breast Christmas Ever" contest, 13 women were awarded the procedure after writing essays to the stations explaining why they wanted larger breasts. A Tampa station claimed to receive more than 91,000 entries.
Clear Channel said it had nothing to do with the contest and that it was a decision by local station managers to hold the promotion, which was aired in Tampa, Jacksonville, St. Louis and Detroit.
The contest has drawn the ire of both the National Research Center for Women & Families and the National Organization for Women. NOW has urged its supporters to file complaints with the Federal Communications Commission against Clear Channel and its stations.
The controversy comes within months of Clear Channel paying a record US$1.75 million fine to resolve indecency complaints against New York-based shock jock Howard Stern, Tampa radio personality "Bubba the Love Sponge" and others. The station formally agreed to "clean up its act," FCC Chairman Michael Powell said in June.
While neither women's group is alleging the breast surgery contest violated decency standards, they are complaining the contest promotes potentially dangerous surgery and leaves its winners with no legal remedies should the surgery go awry. Under the rules, winners must be at least 18 and sign a waiver protecting the company from all liability claims.
"I try not to be judgmental about whether a large radio station should be giving away free toys to children instead of free breast augmentation," said Diana Zuckerman, president of the National Research Center for Women & Families, a health advocacy organization.
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 have been sent to the FCC and Clear Channel, NOW said Monday.
Jennifer Gery, a spokeswoman for Clear Channel, said the company had no oversight of the contests and didn't sponsor them.
"There is no reason to be concerned because it's not a Clear Channel-sponsored contest," Gery said. "We empower our local manager to make programming decisions."
David Fiske, a spokesman for the FCC, said the agency does not regulate the content of radio station contests unless it violates decency standards.
The FCC only requires radio stations to conduct contests exactly by the stated rules and to fully disclose the terms of the contest.
NOW has been active in lobbying the Food and Drug Administration against the marketing of silicone breast implants and has an ongoing "Love Your Body" campaign aimed at countering what it says are unrealistic body images promoted in the entertainment industry.