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Mixed Signals: Obscenity OK, Rape PSA Banned

by Wendy Melillo
It's ironic that a message intended to keep children safe from sexual abuse is considered too graphic for the listeners of WBEB 101.1 FM, Philadelphia.
The soft-rock station isn't squeamish about playing provocative songs from Kid Rock, Queen and Prince -- yet it turned down a public service message from the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape, which wanted to buy airtime from the station. The reason: the 30-second PSA contained the words "rape" and "sexual."
WBEB calls itself a "family friendly" station, says vice president and general manager Blaise Howard. "We understand what our audience wants."
The station's arbiters of taste offered PCAR a choice: It would run the PSA if the nonprofit would remove the word "rape" from its name and change the spot's words "child sexual abuse" to just "child abuse." PCAR executive director Delilah Rumburg is still puzzled over how the PSA is considered too explicit. After a futile conversation with Howard, her organization issued a press release urging people to call the station, voice their displeasure, and make a donation to a local rape crisis center.
"We have never had anyone refuse to air our messages, and this campaign for child sexual abuse is over five years old," Rumburg said.
Judge the PSA for yourself. The radio script reads: "I want to talk to you about a subject many people try to ignore: child sexual abuse. Each year in Pennsylvania, thousands of children are sexually abused and most cases are never reported. Without help, these children could suffer a lifetime of health issues. But there is hope: you. If you believe a child is being sexually abused, please visit or call 1-877-874-HERO." PCAR's name is mentioned as the sponsor.