A Lexington woman who says she was jilted by a-WLTO-102.5 FM contest filed a lawsuit yesterday against Cumulus Media Inc., which owns Hot 102 and four other local stations.
The complaint, filed in Fayette Circuit Court, says the radio station and its Atlanta-based parent company breached a contract to pay $100,000 after a radio contest prize was revealed to be a caramel-filled candy bar, Nestle's 100 Grand, instead of cash.
On May 25, night host DJ Slick said he wanted to thank people who listened throughout the American Idol finale by sponsoring a contest to "win 100 grand." "No joke," the host's Web blog said of the contest.
Norreasha Gill won by listening to the radio show throughout the night and being the 10th caller just before the Idol winner was announced. As family members rushed to her house to celebrate, she screamed over the airwaves and began describing what she would do with $100,000, she said.
"I just freaked out," Gill, 28, said. "I couldn't move, I was so afraid that the phone would click off. I was shaking. They congratulated me and told me I could pick it up the next morning."
Before the family went to bed, Gill promised her children -- ages 1, 5 and 11 -- that they'd have a minivan, a shopping spree, a savings account and a home with a back yard.
"I couldn't sleep, there were so many knots in my stomach," said Gill, who is six months pregnant.
When she arrived at Hot 102's studio the next morning, she was asked to return that night, when DJ Slick would be in the office. By the time Gill and her fiance returned home from breakfast, a message from the station manager was waiting.
He explained that she had won a 100 Grand candy bar, not money. Later, he offered her $5,000, Gill said.
"I said I wanted $95,000 more," she said. "Nobody would watch and listen for two hours for a candy bar.
"What hurts me is they were going to get me in front of my children, all dressed up, and hand me a candy bar, after all those promises I made to them. You just don't do that to people."
Gill's attorney, Lee Van Horn, says Gill was treated "maliciously."
"The DJ knew this wasn't $100,000 and he led her to believe it was," Van Horn said. "This was an incredibly cruel joke to play on her, especially on the air in front of so many people."
DJ Slick, who was not named in the lawsuit, did not return an e-mail. WLTO and Cumulus declined to comment, identify the DJ by his given name or say whether anybody was fired because of the incident.
The host said on his Web site, Slickshow.net, that he had left his job at the radio station.
Experts said Gill's case will rely on state contract law but the radio station also could face actions by the Federal Communications Commission, which licenses radio stations.
FCC regulations say contest descriptions can't be false, misleading or deceptive and that stations must conduct the contests as advertised. Stations in El Paso, Texas, and Shreveport, La., have been fined for contests that told listeners they'd won cash prizes without specifying they were in Italian or Turkish lira, not U.S. dollars.
In November, the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council threatened to file an FCC complaint after three morning show hosts at Cumulus-owned WXZZ-103.3 FM pulled a hoax that flooded county government offices with calls. The morning show hosts apologized and were temporarily suspended from the station, but no complaint was filed.
"No radio station wants to be fined by the FCC," said Richard Labunski, a University of Kentucky professor who teaches media law. "They really should know better and not mislead the audience."
Listeners ought to be skeptical of radio stations handing out large cash prizes, Labunski said, but the show host and station crossed ethical boundaries with the contest.
"It does nothing but create bad publicity," Labunski said. "People are not going to say, 'Oh, this was funny.'"
Gill says she has put her plans to buy a minivan and home on hold until the family's finances are solidified.
She said, "It crushes me for it to be a joke."
So, just based on this article, would you agree with the radio station saying, "hey, it was a joke, no harm no foul." or with the lady who is suing because she got her hopes up that she was winning cash and not a candy bar.