Fat Bastard Too 'Cheeky' for Austin Radio
Wine ads warp the moral fiber of some but not all local listeners
In the wake of the morality storm stirred up by Janet Jackson's televised nipple flash, it's come to this for local radio stations: They don't even know if they can play a commercial for a wine called Fat Bastard without bringing down the pious wrath of the Federal Communications Commission. Last week two Austin stations, KKMJ (95.5FM) and KLBJ (590AM), pulled ads for the wine off the air while other local stations continue to run the spots, apparently confident that Fat Bastard jokes are not destroying their listeners' moral fiber.
Infinity Broadcasting yanked the Fat Bastard ads from KKMJ Majic 95.5, which plays soft rock after receiving "25 to 35 pretty vocal complaints" from listeners, says John Hiatt, manager of Infinity's four Austin stations. "If we only had two or three calls, the spots would still be on the air," Hiatt said. But the Fat Bastard spots continue to run on Majic's adult contemporary sister station, KAMX (94.7FM, The Mix). The company hasn't received a single complaint from Mix listeners, Hiatt says.
Meanwhile, Emmis Broadcasting decided not to run the Fat Bastard spots on news-talk KLBJAM after receiving complaints but continues to air the ads on its other Austin stations. "We're just trying to be responsive to the listeners of the stations," said Scott Gillmore, market manager for Emmis' Austin stations.
The three spots still airing feature a wide array of Fat Bastard jokes. In one, a bawdy wench announces she loves to "climb into a tub with a little Fat Bastard." Each ad notes that the Fat Bastard name stems from a "cheeky British phrase." (It has nothing to do aside from the cheeky and British part with the Fat Bastard character in Austin Powers movies.) "We tried hard to create funny spots that would appeal to everyone," said Alan MacDonald, vice-president of Click Wine Group, the small Seattle-based company that distributes Fat Bastard.
MacDonald sounds a bit mystified by the Austin stations' reaction, considering the stations approved the spots before they aired. Fat Bastard ads have run in Madison, Wis., and in the Tampa Bay area without any visible sign of moral decay, and the company's wines are sold in stores around the country.
But this is dicey territory for the broadcasters, who can't say "dick" these days out of fear of getting slapped down by the FCC. Since Jackson's Super Bowl striptease, the FCC has levied hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines against stations, in some cases for stunts that wouldn't have drawn a pithy warning letter a few years ago. Infinity, which is owned by nipple panderer Viacom (also owner of CBS), decided it was better to return Click Wine's money rather than take chances running the spots on KKMJ, which bills itself as family-friendly. "I do think we have an obligation to try and find entertainment that doesn't have to be guarded against," Hiatt said.