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  • Paul Kitagaki Jr. / The Sacramento Bee

    Attorney Colin Munro, whose firm represented radio station KDND-FM, talks to the media in 2009 after a jury awarded the Strange family over $16 million in the wrongful death of Jennifer Strange. She died from water intoxication hours after competing in a contest that required entrants to drink large amounts of water.

  • The Associated Press

    Jennifer Lea Strange’s death is cited as a reason to deny the broadcast license of KDND.

  • Rich Pedroncelli / The Associated Press

    Nina Hulst, right, the mother of Jennifer Lea Strange, waits with attorney Roger Dreyer at a news conference in 2007 about the wrongful death suit against radio station KDND.

Sacramento watchdog groups to challenge KDND broadcast license

Published: Wednesday, Sep. 25, 2013 - 11:14 pm
Last Modified: Thursday, Sep. 26, 2013 - 8:18 am

Two Sacramento media watchdog groups said Wednesday they will challenge the broadcast license renewal of a local radio affiliate held financially responsible for the water intoxication death of a young mother trying to win a video game for her family.

In 2009, the family of Jennifer Lea Strange won a jury award of $16,577,188 in a lawsuit against Entercom Sacramento LLC over the 28-year-old woman’s 2007 death from a contest called “Hold Your Wee for a Wii.” The contest aired on KDND “The End” (107.9 FM).

On Wednesday, representatives for the Sacramento Media Group and the Media Action Center announced that they intend to file legal challenges with the Federal Communications Commission before the Nov. 1 deadline to contest the station’s pending eight-year broadcast license renewal.

Media Action Center founder Sue Wilson, producer of a 2009 documentary, “Broadcast Blues,” that spotlighted Strange’s death, said the groups intend to formally serve papers challenging KDND’s license renewal when FCC commissioners meet in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 22. The group’s efforts were also supported by California Common Cause, which advocates on political transparency and media issues.

In a news conference at the Sacramento County courthouse, Wilson noted that a jury had held the radio station liable for Strange’s death, but the FCC has shown no inclination to go after its broadcast license – despite calls from the victim’s family for sanctions against the station.

“In that contest, a woman died,” Wilson said. “However, the Federal Communications Commission has not acted in any way.”

Kevin Geary, a spokesman for KDND’s parent corporation, Entercom Communications Corp., said Wednesday that “the events in 2007 were tragic. Our thoughts remain with the family. We will respond to any petition filed with the FCC at the appropriate time.”

In the 2007 contest on KDND’s “Morning Rave” show, contestants were urged to drink as much water as they could without urinating to win a $250 video game system. Despite an on-air call to the program from a nurse who warned that contestants were endangering their lives from water contamination, the contest went on with a host laughing and asking, “Is anyone dying in there?”

Strange and other contestants vomited. She dropped out of the contest, went home and died about six hours later.

No family members were present at Wednesday’s news conference calling for the rejection of the station’s license renewal.

“These radio stations hold very lucrative licenses ... to serve the public interest,” said Roger Smith, a spokesman for Sacramento Media Group, an affiliate of Common Cause. “On-air stunts that kill people do not serve the public interest.”

The KDND’s on-site station management and crew of the “Morning Rave” show were fired after Strange’s death.

In 2009, a jury found Entercom Sacramento negligent in the case but exonerated the parent corporation, Entercom Communications Corp., of any liability.

Call The Bee’s Peter Hecht, (916) 326-5539.

Read more articles by Peter Hecht

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