Jennifer Strange Trial Coverage: Wii Contest was Typical

October 1, 2009

In a videotaped deposition dated July 12, 2007, KDND station manager Steve Weed testified as to his forty plus year radio career.  His role at KDND was to coach on air talent with the goal of entertaining and getting listeners, helping performers improve their craft, and making musical decisions. Part of his job was to listen to the various programs to look for deficiencies and  help correct them.  He said he punched in and out of the morning Rave the day of the contest, but felt the contest was consistent with those they'd had for the six years of the Morning Rave program.


Although he supervised Pechota, Weed said his responsibility was to supervise on air talent, and Pechota's was to run contests.  He did not know who was monitoring the Wii contest, and did not ask as to the health or safety of contestants.  He said there he had been no training concerning the health of contestants nor had anyone at Entercom ever instructed him to conduct such training.

Weed said at his previous position at WDBD he had been required to review contests before and after they were conducted, as was customary.  At KDND he said he was not involved with contests after they had been planned.   He said he did not have a supervisor with regard to contests, and that he was left to his own discretion.  "There was no training from Corporate regarding contests,"  and there had never been a written report about contests for review.

Weed said his job was to make content more entertaining, but that there was no set criteria.  He felt he had license to do what he chose, and talked about the vicarious trend, as in Fear Factor or Survivor, to have contestants "go through" something to win a prize, and said he had participated in planning contestsbefore the Wii contest where contestants must "go through" something to win.

Weed said Entercom's legal department in Boston would delineate factors for safety, but when asked which factors, he said he didn't know.  He testified he had never seen anything in writing from Entercom Communications regarding safety, and that he had never been given any guidance on that.  There was "no criteria to consider whether this contest would pose a health or safety problem."

Weed testified that he did not check in on the contest to see how it was going because once a contest was going his job was done.  He did say he supposed he hoped they would be squirming as that would be a good "visual chord."

Weed testified that when he arrived at the station, Geary asked to see him right away with complaints about noise which was bothering the sales department.
Dreyer: "it was not necessary to do any research at all regarding safety?" Weed "Yes."  Dreyer:
 "That's the way you were trained?"  Weed: "Yes."

Weed said that although Entercom's Contest Limitations said not to do a dangerous contest, there was no definition of that.  He said things like skydiving had been talked about and were prohibited, but this was information "picked up along the way," not from formal correspondence.    He was asked whether Masi had said to contact their office so they could conduct medical research to determine if something is dangerous, and he could not recall a specific conversation about that.

Weed said although he was instructed by corporate not to do high risk contests, but it was for him to determne what "high risk" meant, and that he would decide what "dangerous" meant.  He said he had no idea what "borderline acceptable" meant, even though that was officially prohibited also.

Dreyer referred to the section in the rules Pechota had drafted for the Wii contest that said contestants understood the contest may be hazardous. and that they warrant they were physically able to undergo the contest.   Dreyer asked Weed about the release form given to the contestants, which did not include that language, but just generally said contestants absolved Entercom of any Personal Injury.  He asked whether the station manager considered giving the rules which spelled out hazards of the contest to the contestants.  Weed said no.  When asked whether there is anything in corporate training manuals concerning the contest rules, Weed said he didn't know.

Dreyer asked whether Weed had provided specific training to his staff as to what they should do if callers called into the station regarding danger risk or harm a contestant might incur; Weed said there was nothing specific, but that his employees knew they could call him at any time.   Asked is as a manager he had provided training as to what to do if a contestant became ill, Weed said he had never told them specifically, but there was an understanding they would call 911.  He agreed no training was provided by either him or John Geary.  Dreyer:  You had hundreds of meetings, and there was not one discussion what to do if a contestant became ill?  Weed: Correct.

When asked whether Weed remembered Geary's statement that there was a "culture of safety" at KDND.  Weed did not remember that specificall, but said it was understood they were not to put listeners at risk.

Weed talked about his role in developing the Morning Rave on-air team to create the sense of a family.  When asked if that meant fostering trust in the on air talents' believability and credibility, Weed said yes.

Back to the contest, Weed did not know whether the Wii contest had been vetted.  He said he did not know whether he'd had any coversation about vetting the contest.    When told that Pechota testified that they did have such a conversation and that they jointly decided not to vet the contest, Weed did not recall that, but said that as Pechota had ongoing relationship with Legal, she was in the best position to know what needed vetting and what did not.  When asked if he had ever trained Pechota as to whether a contest should go to Legal, he said he had not, and said he was unaware whether Pechota had been through any such training.

Part of Weed's job was to supervise Pechota.  When asked when a contest should be run by legal, Weed said if it were risky or dangerous, but it was ultimately Robin's decision, and he did not know what parameters she was working under.

Weed said he thought at the time the Wii contest was typical of the things they did at KDND, the "last man standing wins" was the kind of thing they did all the time.
Weed testified that he thought the Wii contest was a "simple giveaway," a "simple contest," and so did not need to be cleared with legal.

Weed said that it was Pechota's job to draft rules of the contest and they were supposed to be posted on the web, and material terms would be read on the air.  Material terms included the date, time, place of contest, how to enter and how to win.  he did not see the rules until after the contest, and Pechota's testimony was they had never been posted on the web.   She also said there was a grey area about what a "simple contest" meant.

Weed had been getting good ratings for the station, and agreed that he wanted on air confrontation, that good radio is drama.

Weed then was asked whether he thought it necessary to train staff how to protect contestants medically, he did not based on their other contests.    When asked if the Entercom Corporation Power Point had any discussion of safety, he said no.  He said it was true, to a degree, that it was left to he and Pechota to subjectively decide what was dangerous.

See video of the Jennifer Strange story at www.broadcastblues.tv .

See September archives for earlier trial coverage.



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