Settlement reached in Sacramento radio case

A settlement has been reached in a lawsuit filed nearly three years ago by a family whose mother died from the aftermath of a radio stunt.

The Strange Family was awarded $16.6 million from a jury who felt the radio station – Entercom-owned KDND-FM in Sacramento, known as The End, was neligient in the stunt. The jury only held the station’s licensee (Entercom Sacramento) liable, but not the parent company. The jury awarded money to Strange’s widow and her three children.

Jennifer Strange participated in the “Hold Your Water For A Wii” contest on January 12, 2007, where she competed with others to see who can drink the most water without urinating and the winner would be awarded the then-hard to get Nintendo Wii video-game system.

When Ms. Strange arrived home that day, she complained of headaches and rushed to the hospital, where she died  from water intoxication the very same day. The death sent shockwaves throughout the radio community and put the spotlight on Big Media companies and their indifference for its audience.

Entercom laid the hammer down hard on those running the contest, firing everyone involved for violating the company’s guidelines for conducting contests and canceled KDND-FM’s morning show, titled The Morning Rave.

While Sacramento Police did not file charges against anyone from the station, the family filed a wrongful death suit, which went to trial last month.

Is it not known whether or not Entercom Sacramento plans to appeal the jury’s decision – it is believed to be the largest wrongful death suit settlement in Sacramento history.

Thought: I wrote a Think Tank titled Radio Blew It Again back on January 28, 2007, two weeks after this tragedy occurred.  Though yours truly basically tied this to the shortcomings of local government, the message is the same – the problems of the industry needs to be addressed and the reputation the radio business needs to be improved. Stunts like this only further the negative perception people have regarding radio.

While Entrecom fired the people behind the stunt, that was a given. Practicing responsible radio is the only way the medium can improve its image. Unfortunately, there are many who still believe shock jock radio is the only way boost ratings and revenue. And much like your leaders in Chicago government, the suits in Big Media are only looking out for themselves and their wallets and patronage – and not us, the audience.

On Thursday, the jury sent a message to Big Media – a $16.6 million one. Let’s hope Big Media learns from this tragic mistake. Unfortunately, I have a feeling the Cheap Channels of the world won’t.


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