WEBN, not billboards, too much to bear

Tuesday, November 3, 1998

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Why is everybody screaming about WEBN's new billboards? The radio station has simply exercised the right to advertise its wares. Which is not, of course, Wonderbras. But increasingly coarse radio chat.

"What a Pair!" the billboards shriek enthusiastically, next to a picture of much larger-than-life breasts.

This is just truth in advertising. In fact, we might consider it a public service announcement. It's like putting a warning label on something that might make you sick. Wouldn't you rather know in advance?

It is a thoughtful reminder of the kind of programming this station beams into your kid's car. And bedroom. Any time of day. It would be much worse if they pretended that they are something better.

Bubba the Hate Sponge

To tell you the truth, I don't even think the gigantic headless breasts are that offensive. Maybe I'm jaded. Maybe I've been desensitized by WEBN's billboards of the pregnant guys or the pictures of men with their pants around their ankles or their heads in physically impossible places.

If you want to be seriously offended, forget the billboards and listen to the radio. Decide for yourself whether this is something you'd like to have available to your kids. You've been warned, courtesy of the station itself.

These are the fabulous folks who brought Bubba the Love Sponge to town. A year ago, nearly one-fourth of his audience was between the ages of 12 and 17. They were treated to a barrage of racist remarks and advice from the Love Sponge, which included smacking women around and just generally putting us in our place every time we need it.

After The Cincinnati Enquirer's John Kiesewetter printed some of the almost-unprintable show a year ago, replete with dashes and careful detours around "the B word for women" and references to "big-assed Aunt Jemima," the station decided to apologize for any "offensive material broadcast during Bubba's program."

I guess they had no idea people would be offended by a comedy routine about an elderly man having anal sex with PBS' Mister Rogers. Or playful references to incest.

Geezer power

"What's important is the relationship of parents with their children in that household and how the parent manages that. It's a one-on-one thing," WEBN's then-station manager Jaqui Brumm said at the time. Well put.

On the other hand, Amy Shelton wonders in a letter to the Enquirer complaining about the current billboards, "How do you explain to a child that the values parents are teaching at home don't seem to matter anywhere else?"

The current station manager, Alene Grevey, says Bubba has lost some of his youthful fans -- down to 15 percent of his audience -- since the station pushed his time slot back an hour.

"We are not looking for a teen-age audience," Ms. Grevey says. So I guess the billboard on Glenway Avenue right next to Seton and Elder high schools is probably just wasteful. And, besides, all the billboards are coming down, on schedule, next week.

So there will be nothing there to remind us. Or maybe there will be something twice as offensive. It doesn't really matter.

The billboards are the least of it. The important thing is the product itself, Jacor's WEBN-FM (102.7). Listen to it. A whole day of it. You may conclude the billboards are easier to explain to your kids than the content of the chat.

If you don't like what you hear, then notice who buys ads on this station. Don't buy their stuff. Be sure to tell them why. Because if we do nothing but complain about a few vulgar billboards -- if we ignore what they stand for -- then we are just a bunch of boobs.

Laura Pulfer's column appears Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. E-mail her at laurapulfer@enquirer.com, call 768-8393, or fax at 768-8340. She can be heard Monday mornings on WVXU-FM (91.7) and as a commentator on National Public Radio's Morning Edition. Her new book, I Beg to Differ, a collection of her most popular columns and commentaries, is available at (800) 852-9332.