In June, Media Mouse conducted a review of the websites of FM radio stations in Grand Rapids. The review looked at “hyper-sexual” content on the websites and was based on the framework presented in an earlier study conducted in 2004 by the Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy (GRIID).
When the June review was conducted, local alternative rock station WGRD (owned by Regent Broadcasting) had no hyper-sexual content. Aside from what was documented in the 2004 study, WGRD has a history of promoting misogynistic and hyper-sexual content, perhaps most notably with former DJ David Fox who’s nightly radio show was the subject of a Media Mouse study in 2006. In this context, the absence of hyper-sexual content was not only at an anomaly in WGRD’s history, but also when it was compared to other local radio stations.
Unfortunately, hyper-sexual content has returned to WGRD. This was first noticed with the heavy on-air promotion of WGRD’s “Erotic Ball” event held the weekend before Halloween:
As has become common place for radio station Halloween contests, the station promoted a highly sexualized interpretation of Halloween.
On WGRD’s home page, the station has two features objectifying women–“WGRD’s Girls To Be Thankful For!” and the “WGRD Babe of the Day.”
Like the websites of other radio stations in the West Michigan area, the “Babe of the Day” feature syndicates content from “Stare Magazine” that uses the slogan “we don’t even HAVE articles” to promote its “bikini and lingerie” photographs. The image featured on WGRD’s site when this review was conducted was an example the “dismemberment” of women when they are reduced to nothing more than a single body part (or set of). Essentially, there is no humanity in the photo and instead the body is presented as the only defining aspect of the woman. Based on Stare’s website, this is quite common as the majority of the photos on the website–including the header image–feature such dismemberment.
The “WGRD Girls To Be Thankful For!” feature is a contest that solicits photos from women. Women who submit photos are displayed on the website and then are eligible to win WGRD “prize packs.” Not surprisingly given the portrayals of women elsewhere on the site, photos tend to be shot in a way that represent stereotypical “male” “fantasies.”
The continued presence of hyper-sexual content on WGRD and other radio stations is problematic on numerous levels. On rock radio stations such as WGRD, it fits into a historical context wherein women have been given roles such as “the girlfriend” or “the groupie” and who are not typically seen as equals with males, who in many cases, fill roles such as “the musician,” “the DJ,” or “the bad boy.” Moreover, rock stations such as WGRD tend to play more male artists than female artists. In this context, women are treated as objects to fulfill male desire, being placed into narrowly defined roles with limited participation in the music scene. At the same time, through techniques such as the previously discussed “dismemberment” and the continued presentation of women as objects, men are presented with the idea that women exist to fulfill their sexual desires. This reinforces a message repeatedly sent to men in our patriarchal society, while at the same time, the presentation of women only as bodies–or in some cases body parts–denies them their basic humanity.
Moreover, radio stations and their continued presentation of hyper-sexual content should also be considered with regard to their Federal Communications Commission (FCC) obligations. In order to receive and keep a license from the FCC, a radio station must serve the public interest, convenience, and necessity. The FCC also regulates “obscene,” “indecent,” and “profane” broadcasts. While the content of radio station websites is not regulated by the FCC, how does it fit connect with frequently hyper-sexual content in broadcasts? Does hyper-sexual conduct serve the FCC obligations of public interest, convenience, and necessity?