Emmis hip-hop radio station WQHT (Hot 97) New York was smacked with steep fines and mandates of community action in the wake of its "Smackfest" promotions.
NEW YORK -- Emmis hip-hop radio station WQHT (Hot 97) New York was smacked with steep fines and mandates of community action in the wake of a station slapping contest deemed illegal by New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer and State Athletic Commission Chairman Ron Scott Stevens -- even though contestants participated voluntarily.
Hot 97 will pay the maximum fine of $240,000 for its "Smackfest" promotions and fund an extensive anti-violence campaign, including a $60,000 payment to one of the city's leading anti-violence organizations.
Emmis, bearing the blame, said in a statement, ""Despite the fact that the contestants voluntarily participated in what was supposed to be harmless entertainment, it was not our finest hour, and New York City deserves better," Emmis Radio President Rick Cummings said. "We have listened to the concerns and worked closely with the attorney general's office to come to an agreement that will benefit and educate the community."
Sptizer added, "This agreement should be a wake up call to all those in the entertainment industry who think outrageousness is a clever marketing strategy. The law establishes set boundaries that cannot be crossed to protect our community's health and safety."
Fellow headlining-grabbing politico and city council member John C. Lui, added, "Starting with Emmis' broadcast of racist and sexist profanity in its 'The Tsunami Song' and more recently, it's illegal 'SmackFest' prizefights, the corporate chieftains at Emmis have broken the public trust by profiting from hate and violence. Today's legal settlement is not only a victory for the New Yorkers, but will provide another incentive for Emmis' corporate chieftains to stay within the legal and ethical bounds of our public airwaves."
The Attorney General's Office and the State Athletic Commission began an investigation of Hot 97's promotions in March of this year. The investigation revealed 24 "Smackfest" contests between April 2004 and January 2005 in which participants, usually young women, took turns slapping each other. Winners were promised tickets to concerts and as much as $5,000 in cash.
In a petition filed in the New York Supreme Court, Spitzer's office and the Athletic Commission alleged that the contests were dangerous and violated state law regarding the promotion of a combative sport. The commission is responsible for issuing permits for boxing contests and does so only when certain conditions have been met. Smackfest contests did not meet those conditions.