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By PAMELA DAVIS
© St. Petersburg Times, published March 22, 2001
The Federal Communications Commission, which has leveled fines at radio personality Bubba the Love Sponge in the past, is now investigating the recent boar killing event on WXTB-FM 97.9 (98 Rock) to decide whether the broadcast was "obscene or indecent."
Meanwhile, more companies have discontinued or suspended advertising on the Bubba the Love Sponge Show and/or WXTB, owned by Clear Channel Communications.
Bennigan's, Universal Orlando, Spirit Airlines, TGIFridays and Auto Nation have joined corporate heavyweights such as the Walt Disney World Resort, GNC, GameWorks and Denny's.
"We don't condone or endorse animal cruelty of any kind," said Bennigan's spokeswoman Peggy Marshall-Mims. "We found this public demonstration distasteful and offensive. As soon as we became aware, we pulled our advertising from the morning show and demanded an apology from the station."
The exit of advertisers is starting to affect WXTB.
"There's been some advertising impact, and we respect our advertisers' decisions if they want to temporarily pull," said Dave Reinhart, vice president and marketing manager of the eight Clear Channel-owned stations in Tampa. "But we're confident that we'll have them back in the future."
Carb Solutions, Big Oaks Buick Pontiac GMC in Bartow and Kforce.com Education Service also have dropped or suspended their ads from the radio station.
"We're done with WXTB," said Big Oaks spokesman Scott Littlejohn. "We don't want to get stuck in the rut with bad publicity, and we don't agree with animal cruelty."
In a letter dated March 16, the FCC informed Citicasters Co., WXTB's licensee, of the investigation and ordered the company to answer several questions about the boar episode. (Although Citicasters was acquired by Jacor, which then was bought by Clear Channel, the Citicasters name remains on the license.)
The agency quoted a graphic description of the boar's castration and killing. It asked the station whether the details were accurate, and if not, to supply a transcript of the broadcast.
The Times received a copy of the letter from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which filed a complaint with the FCC. The agency faxed PETA a copy of its letter to Citicasters.
The FCC would not comment further Wednesday.
Neither Clear Channel's San Antonio, Texas, headquarters nor its Tampa operation have received notification from the FCC about the investigation, according to company spokeswoman Pam Taylor.
Both Lowry Mays, chairman and CEO of Clear Channel, and Randy Michaels, CEO of Clear Channel Radio, have received death threats over the incident, Taylor said. The threat against Michaels was mentioned in a Wall Street Journal profile of him, published Monday.
Bubba's sidekicks on the morning show talked Wednesday about him possibly returning today, but Reinhart said that's not going to happen.
"We're playing this day by day as things occur," Reinhart said. "It's been an indefinite suspension. Hopefully it will end soon, but we don't see that opportunity yet."
Initially, the station said Bubba, who has been off the air since last week, was taking a vacation. Later, officials confirmed he was suspended.
Wednesday, Taylor said Bubba was "suspended by station management not so much for his bad judgment and the event, which was way over the line and shouldn't have been done, but for his treatment on the air following the event." "He went off on the event and talked about the publicity he was getting and really added fuel to a fire that didn't need to be fanned."