FCC Designates License Renewal For Entercom's KDND (107.9 The End)/Sacramento For Hearing Over Fatal Contest
October 28, 2016 at 9:29 AM (PT)
As ALL ACCESS first reported last night (NET NEWS 10/27), the FCC has designated the 2005 and 2013 license renewal applications of ENTERCOM LICENSE, LLC for Top 40 KDND (107.9 THE END)/SACRAMENTO for hearing over the "Hold Your Wee For A Wii" contest in 2007 that led to the water intoxication death of contestant JENNIFER LEE STRANGE.
ED STOLZ and his late mother IRENE filed petitions against the renewal; ED STOLZ' sale of KWOD, now KUDL, to ENTERCOM and STOLZ' failed attempt to cancel the deal have led STOLZ to file challenges to ENTERCOM license renewals. A Petition to Deny was also filed by MEDIA ACTION CENTER and SUE WILSON in 2013 and an informal objection was filed that same year by ROGER D. SMITH.
The notice of designation for hearing says, "Information now before the Commission raises serious questions as to whether ENTERCOM operated Station KDND in the public interest during the most recent license term. As discussed below, the record suggests that ENTERCOM formulated, promoted, conducted and aired over the station an inherently dangerous contest in which one listener-contestant died of water intoxication and many others suffered serious physical distress. This information could lead to the conclusion that ENTERCOM failed to serve the public interest with the Station during the previous license term, warranting denial of the above-captioned renewal applications." The Commission noted that the "pre-contest announcements did not mention any risks associated with the Contest in general or water intoxication (hyponatremia) specifically."
Specifically, the Commission said that "Based on the totality of the evidence, there are substantial and material questions of fact as to whether ENTERCOM: (i) designed and conducted a contest that was inherently dangerous; (ii) increased the danger to the contestants by changing the announced Contest terms; (iii) was aware of the potential dangers of the Contest and water intoxication; (iv) failed to protect the contestants from the potential dangers of the Contest; (v) failed to warn the contestants of the Contest’s potential dangers; (vi) prioritized entertainment value over the welfare of the contestants; and (vii) failed to conduct adequate training and exercise appropriate supervision of Station KDND employees and the Contest to ensure the safety of the contestants."
Harshly criticizing the licensee for its conduct, the notice contends that "ENTERCOM’s actions relating to the Contest suggest an active indifference to the contestants’ safety, as evidenced by the negligence verdict and the licensee’s refusal, apparently at the direction of its parent, to warn the other contestants in the wake of Ms. STRANGE’s death, placing its corporate self-interest over their safety and well-being."
The case will head to an Administrative Law Judge for hearing. ENTERCOM had requested confidentiality for parts of its response to an Enforcement Bureau investigation, but the Commission said that because the SACRAMENTO District Attorney decided not to file criminal charges and civil litigation was also resolved, the confidentiality request was moot.
But the Commission also dismissed and/or denied STOLZ' Applications for Review of the license renewals of ENTERCOM's News-Talk WBEN-A and Sports WWKB-A/BUFFALO, Active Rock WAAF/WESTBOROUGH-BOSTON, Sports WEEI-A/BOSTON, Sports WEEI-F/LAWRENCE-BOSTON, News-Talk WRKO/BOSTON, and Alternative KNRK (94/7)/PORTLAND.
Pres./CEO DAVID FIELD commented, “What happened at KDND in 2007 was a terrible tragedy that pains us deeply. Throughout our 48-year history, we have had a steadfast commitment to being a caring and responsible corporate citizen, firmly committed to public service. We take great pride in all of the work we have done to serve our communities. Nonetheless, we fully recognize that all of our good work cannot undo that tragic event nine years ago. We do believe it is important to note that the jury that heard this case concluded that ENTERCOM COMMUNICATIONS CORP. was not negligent. What happened was the result of unauthorized and appalling actions by certain station employees who violated corporate procedures. None of that diminishes our sadness and we remain committed to continuous improvement in our efforts to serve the public.”