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A tree too thin

Friday, April 06, 2001

By Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor

Sometimes TV stations face a hairy situation when it comes to commercials with edgy content. Case in point: The latest spots for radio station B-94's morning team of JohnDaveBubbaShelley irked some viewers who felt they could see Dave Cook's pubic hair as he stood naked behind a tall, thin tree that hid his genitals.

Keith Clark, director of operations for Infinity-owned radio stations WBZZ, WZPT and WDSY, said TV stations are being hypocritical.

"Nobody is exposed any more than on the majority of daytime soap operas and prime-time shows," Clark said.

But pubic hair isn't usually seen in prime time or on daytime soaps, is it?

"Pubic hair can be hair under the arms," Clark protested, readjusting the natural instinct to think about hair further down the body. "Dave's body is covered in hair. He's a hairy guy. There was no more of his crotch exposed than if he had a Speedo swimsuit on."

In the original commercial, provided to the Post-Gazette by B-94, Dave's pubic hair down there is clearly visible.

WTAE general manager James Hefner said he heard complaints about the spot from Channel 4's general sales manager. Someone at the station looked at the ad, which includes talk of a contest, before it aired, but they were more concerned about whether the ad fell within Federal Communications Commission guidelines for advertising contests.

"It's the kind of spot you'd expect out of a Top 40 radio station," Hefner said. "It's all a matter of taste and judgment. ... The objectionable part to me was the woman eating worms, but I guess if they do that on 'Survivor' she can do it in a radio spot."

WTAE pulled the original spot and began airing an alternate version that blurred out the pubic hair (Clark complained the blurred spot "dilutes the comedic effect of the commercial entirely"). KDKA, WPGH and WPXI also switched to the less graphic spot that was provided to stations at the same time as the offending commercial.

An alternate version of the spot was created and yet a radio executive is crying foul? If this smells like B-94 attempting to churn up media coverage, mission accomplished. Just hope that's all it churns up.

As one WPXI employee said after seeing the first ad, "If you were eating a sandwich when that spot came on, you'd be hating life."

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