Just how far will some radio show hosts go with their contests to endanger their listeners? As you may have heard, recently there was a radio contest in Sacramento where two radio personalities running a Nintendo Wii contest were prepared to take contestants to the grave… and did.

Radio ContestsI read a post at Bob Souer’s blog reprinted with the permission of Dan O’Day that was incredibly shocking and insightful. Dan commented on the fact that radio is one of the only regulated, interactive mediums that purposefully puts their listeners into harms way or humiliates them for jest, often rewarding their degradation with prizes worth far less than the embarrassment caused by the contest, resulting with the loss of self-esteem.

To paraphrase, there was a contest in Sacramento, California (I’m not going to go too far into it here) that resulted in the death of a 28-year old wife and mother of three, who happened to place second in the contest to win a Nintendo Wii.
The contest was senseless, caused severe discomfort, and was immoral. The radio program hosts knew that someone could die as a result of what they were asking them to do. People even called in to the station to request that they stop the contest so that no one would get hurt.

One of the contestants, who died later that day, was even documented as saying that she was feeling nauseous and had a terrible headache, similar to what another contestant compared to a drunken state. She was ignored, and as a result, paid with her life. The personalities simply said that the contestants understood what could happen and had signed off on it. In their opinion, these people knew what they were doing and as a result, they (the hosts) were not responsible for the consequences of the activity.

Such tragedies can and should be avoided. A human life has immeasurable worth, and if lost, cannot be retrieved, cloned, or compensated for. The fact that there are some among us who do not respect and value the lives of other people is disturbing. The fact that some of those people have the ability to broadcast said sentiments is more disturbing still. Even if the young woman had survived and won the Wii, would the end have justified the means?

One thing you can do is report content that you think is offensive, obscene, profane or indecent to the FCC. I’ve found a page where you can learn about filing complaints and get your voice heard. It’s titled Obscenity, Indecency & Profanity.
If you have a moment, please go to Bob’s blog to read Dan’s article in full before commenting so that you fully understand what happened in Sacramento.

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Stephanie Ciccarelli is the Co-Founder and Chief Brand Officer of Voices.com. Classically trained in voice, piano, violin and musical theatre, as well as a respected mentor and industry speaker, Stephanie graduated with a Bachelor of Musical Arts from the Don Wright Faculty of Music at the University of Western Ontario. Possessing a great love for imparting knowledge and empowering others, her podcast Sound Stories serves an audience that wants to achieve excellence in storytelling. Stephanie is found on the PROFIT Magazine W100 list three times (2013, 2015 and 2016), a ranking of Canada's top female entrepreneurs, and is the author of Voice Acting for Dummies®.


  1. Stephanie,
    Thank you for highlighting this important story. Your passion for human life and dignity is clear evidence of your own decency.
    Be well,
    PS: I’ve updated my post to take note of your passionate and thoughtful words here.

  2. Stephanie,
    Thank you for keeping this story in our minds. Until radio (and tv) stations understand that listeners DO NOT find stunts and silly contests entertaining, they will not stop doing them. I hate that this woman had to die, but I hope some good can come from it.
    Stop listening, stop watching, then they will have to stop as well.

  3. Without question radio personalities, and the stations that allow it, do go too far…and I think this is part of the reason why.
    YES, ratings are said to be the driving force, however I submit that it’s deeper than that… a “self/station-focus”. If a station and or personality’s paradigm was that of serving the listener and promoting the music, rather than self promotion, they would actually benefit more.
    I’m of the opinion when most stations do stunts, they are showing themselves to be “creatively weak”. Oh, they may feel “we really came up with a good one here”, but in reality, they sometimes end up exposing the fact that they really don’t have anything else to offer… which is creative weakness.
    That’s not to say that some bits are not entertaining, but they are few and far between.

  4. Stephanie:
    Thank you for posting your response to this horrendously immoral incident in California.
    In my 20 plus years in radio we would never have DREAMED of this type of stupidity. I can only hope and pray that this tragedy will open many eyes and possibly encourage enough people to say: “ENOUGH!”, and that radio will someday again “be radio” and dispense with the idiocy.
    As Kara wrote — “I hope some good can come from (this tragedy).”
    Thanks again, Stephanie, for “being a light” in some dark places.
    The best to you,
    Glad Faith

  5. Having worked in and around radio for many years these events are nothing short of “tragic” on all counts.
    EVERYONE from the “talent” to the Station GM (and everyone in between) is guilty. I suppose it all starts with a total lack of decency and respect. Even the poor woman that died is guilty for not having, what we used to call “Common Sense” These days it seems to be anything but common.
    Many years ago someone said to me that “Radio is the bottom rung on the entertainment ladder”, unfortunately they were and (in many cases) are still, right.
    The station should lose it’s license and the staff become servants to the survivors this poor woman left behind.
    As a side note, I’m from Sacramento. “Pulling the plug” on this station would only improve the programming.

  6. I was not aware that the radio station knew that their contest was dangerous to the contestants. The fact that they did indeed research to see if it might be deleterious to the individual and then went ahead with the contest is quite a shock. Since this was indeed made known to the contestants only makes the situation worse in my humble opinion. It is very sad that people will go to such lengths for monetary gain. This type of contest should not be permitted.


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