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    A Times Editorial

    Who's squealing now?

    © St. Petersburg Times, published April 4, 2001

    Now Bubba the Love Sponge is squealing just like the boar that was knifed to death in a publicity stunt for his radio show. Faced with five years in prison, Bubba also is belatedly facing reality: It's against the law to torture animals for kicks. The question for the Federal Communications Commission, which exists to guard the public airwaves, is why Bubba's bosses at Clear Channel Communications failed to stop the slaughter in their own parking lot.

    Hillsborough State Attorney Mark Ober had ample grounds for charging Bubba and three others with animal cruelty. The issue isn't taste or free speech. This is commercial radio, after all, and Bubba makes a good living saying what he wants. The only question is whether Bubba, while broadcasting his "Roadkill Barbecue" promotion, caused "the cruel death, or excessive or repeated infliction of unnecessary pain or suffering" the law says constitutes a felony. According to police, Paul Lauterberg, who performed the killing, called the station two weeks before the Feb. 27 event "and advised Bubba . . . that he would bring the boar to the radio station." The law protects "any animal," and applies equally to anyone who hurts the animal "or causes the same to be done."

    The FCC is investigating, and some sponsors have abandoned Bubba's station, but Clear Channel needs to do more than suffer a hit in the pocketbook. Was no one in authority listening to Bubba courageous enough to pull the plug? Clear Channel executives can't claim to be surprised by the conduct of the "talent" they've hired. Before this incident, Bubba and other shock jocks at Clear Channel stations around the country had pulled similarly repugnant stunts without being disciplined by their employers.

    According to police, the killing "was conducted on the radio show for entertainment purposes." Many others are milking this case for publicity, too. But the killing touched a nerve because it showed how low much of our mass media and culture have sunk. If Bubba's case goes to trial, it could serve an educational purpose by giving the community a fuller picture of the inner workings of the lowest forms of the radio industry. The boar had more dignity than any of the Homo sapiens involved in this outrage.

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