For some time I have been wrestling with a dilemma that I hope you and your readers can help me with. Everyone has to do bar spots, but I would imagine there aren't many that have to do spots like the ones you'll find on the enclosed cassette. These are spots for, what we affectionately call, "the Canadian ballet." More to the point, strip joints.
The laws governing "exotic dancers" in Canada are quite a bit different than on this side of the border. It seems the ladies are only required to wear something, anything. In most cases it's only a bracelet and a smile. Whereas in New York State, there can be no frontal nudity from the waist down. As you might guess, the Canadian clubs are very popular. Since Buffalo is a border town, I imagine the only other stations who have a situation like this are in other border towns like Detroit or Seattle.
My dilemma is, in these days of political correctness, how do you put something together that will help the client without offending listeners? The approach so far has been to make the spots sound as high class as possible, sensual without being sexual. Other stations in town treat them as a straightforward bar spot. They mention the drink specials. They mention the food specials, and, oh yes, "there are naked girls." (The ladies will be happy to know that some of the clubs have male dancers.)
Another problem is that most of the jocks refuse to cut these spots. Since it's not my call as to what runs and what doesn't, it falls in my lap to get the things done. Oddly enough, the ladies of our sales department seem to be more than willing to help out with a read here and there. Draw your own conclusions from that.
My feeling is that these spots shouldn't be on the air at all. Why risk offending listeners for the sake of a few dollars from a bar spot? On the other hand, ads for 900 numbers are everywhere. Why not take the money and run? You want to do what's right, but, at the same time, you've got to make a buck. To be perfectly honest, we've had very few listener complaints. So why am I writing this letter at all?
In a lot of ways, I'm writing to RAP to purge my soul and promote a little discussion. There are those who will think I'm being a prudish wimp while others will simply send me a bible and tell me to pray for forgiveness. Now, I've been known to suffer whiplash at the sight of a well-filled bikini, but if you're hungry, you don't sit and watch someone cook a steak. I keep thinking about the Timex commercial where the priest says, "Stay a while, son. We don't get many advertising people here."
What do you think about this? How would you handle something of a moral question? I'd especially like to hear from our Canadian brethren. Since my voice is on all the spots on the cassette, you can tell I'm not losing any sleep over the issue. It's all just food for thought. Your comments are welcomed.
P.S. In case you're interested, the next flight to Buffalo is 12:21 pm, you don't need a passport to get into Canada, and the exchange rate on American funds is around 30%. Just trying to help.
Larry McFarland, Production Director
WHTT-AM/FM, Church and Terrace, Buffalo, NY 14202
Your question is officially offered to our readers for feedback, and members can check out your spots on this month's Cassette. Personally, I feel it is a moral decision the station owners should make. And, if a producer is the type who wishes to stay away from this type of production, before accepting any job at a station, they should ask the owners about their policy regarding such ads, and then decide whether to work for this company or not.
I had a conversation with a buddy of mine at the NAB Legal Department, and I wanted to respond to the November issue of RAP ["Pay The Piper"/Nov.'94 RAP].
Last week I went to the annual ADDY dinner and awards ceremony and picked up four awards. The ADDYs are big in town and a big time for radio, TV, agencies, and clients. It's great to win a national award like a RAP Award, but for most locals it's the ADDY. I can't count the number of times RAP has addressed the issue of music licenses and station production and that we must stay away from using music illegally or pay the fee. I bring this up because a producer was talking to me the other day about the ADDY award. All you had to do was invest another forty dollars and the award moved to Regionals, and, if you won there, it moved to Nationals for free. That's changed! Now, if you win an ADDY, it gets forwarded free. No more extra forty dollars. For years, producers knew that you could win an ADDY on local production using illegal or licensed material, and as long as you didn't put the forty bucks in, it wouldn't go to Regionals or Nationals. That was the point!! God forbid if they heard the ad in a major market...you could get caught! Now you can!!!
I wanted everyone to know that a radio station cannot use their station's comedy service as a source of creative for your local sales team if it contains licensed material. The same rules that apply to SYNCHRONIZATION RIGHTS for radio, apply to your comedy service. If your comedy service is using somebody else's music under their material, they do not have the right to give you permission to use their material to make money at your station. If it's protected, it's protected, and you have to pay for the use (reference the November RAP article). When it comes to an ADDY, or any award, you should win on your creative, your merit, and your abilities. If the winners were to be one hundred percent truthful, they would credit everyone who worked on the award, and I guess that would mean the writers and producers of the music they ripped off.
In short, not only do we not have the right to use the comedy service's unprotected material, but in some cases the material from the service may be illegal. Have you checked out whether or not your service is licensed to play what they are sending? YOU'D BEST BE CAREFUL! I also found out that the radio station does not have the right to air a music video as part of their TV commercial without the permission of the owners. And, guess what? The record companies, just because they are record companies, do not have the right to let you play it. Reference the "Producers Guide to Music Clearance," 6605 Hollywood Boulevard, Suite 200, Hollywood, CA 90028, or call 213/469-3186. I also called Ben Ivans at the NAB Legal Department. He let me know that the "Fairness In Musical Licensing Act/Bill #HR 789," is on the hill. If passed, merchants would be able to play radio stations in their stores without all the restrictions and hoops they have to go through from ASCAP.
I guess we should build our production departments on creativity based on what we can do as opposed to leaning on, and using unfairly, other people's efforts. And above all, it's not our license at the radio station, and other people draw an income there, too. Why put it all in jeopardy over a creative illegal ad.
Jeff Left, President
Jeff Left Productions, Fargo, ND
Thanks for your input and for your support of the efforts of those whose creative works too often get pirated for the benefit of others. Like the other letter on this page, you raise an issue that has a substantial moral perspective. Perhaps all awards competitions should be judged by peers, like the RAP Awards. This way, if you feel the entry has relied too heavily on the talents of others not given credit, you simply don't vote for it. Keep the faith; things are changing!