Canadian radio stations must be desperate for publicity and listeners. Two Canadian radio stations on opposite sides of the country are currently running high profile controversial contests. In Edmonton, on 100.3 The Bear, you can win a wife. In Ottawa, on Hot 89.9, you can win a baby. Seems almost unbelievable in a country where it is illegal to sell human sperm or eggs.
Win a Wife
In Edmonton, 100.3 The Bear’s contest page reads “You are cordially invited to…WIN A WIFE.” The prize includes a trip to Russia with 13 nights accommodation, return air fare, and $500 spending money to “meet the lucky lady,” all provided by American company A Volga Girl, which specializes in providing international match-making and marriage support services. The contest description goes on to explain that they won’t “give this opportunity to just anybody” so in order to “weed out the no-hopers and time wasters,” people who want to enter the contest have to complete an application form. As of September 9, there are already 81 applicants, with the two top rated applicants currently both being lesbian women.
The Huffington Post notes that a radio station in New Zealand held an identical contest earlier this year that resulted in grievances being filed in New Zealand and Ukrainian feminists protesting the competition by marching naked in the street to protest the contest. Back in Canada, Alberta’s Immigration minister raised concerns about human trafficking and had all of their department’s advertisements pulled from the radio station. The radio station brand manager, Rob Vavrek, however, brushed aside concerns about the contest, telling the Huffington Post that the contest doesn’t degrade women, but that it simply provides them with “the opportunity to contact and meet each other in the hopes of developing a serious relationship.” He then likened the “win a wife” contest to reality TV shows like the Bachelor and Bachelorette.
Win a Baby
In Ottawa, Hot 89.9 is running a “Win a Baby” contest. On its contest page, the fine print reads that “there is one prize available to be won, consisting of up to three (3) fertility treatment procedures (the “Prize”) which must be completed within 12 months from the end of the Contest Period. The approximate total retail value of the Prize is $35,000 CAD.” Applicants who want to win the fertility treatments complete an application and a judging panel selects the finalists. The radio station will then announce and introduce the finalists and allow the listeners to vote online for the couple they think most deserves the prize.
An article in the Daily Mail highlighted some of the critical comments made about this competition, including that it is “in extremely poor taste” and that it is “the most unethical and insulting contest [they] have ever aired.” However, some people applauded the contest for giving one lucky couple the opportunity to have a baby they might otherwise never be able to afford. Hopefully Ontario (where this contest is being held) will soon catch up to the Province of Quebec and fund fertility treatments under the health care system so that couples are not forced to enter degrading competitions in order to have a family.
Are Contests Going too Far?
What happened to radio stations giving away concert tickets, new televisions or all-inclusive vacations? Is the competition for listeners so great these days that they need to move from material prizes to giving away human life? Everyone deserves the opportunity to have a rewarding relationship and to be able to build a family. But what does it say about our society when people are so desperate that they need to enter publicly humiliating competitions to achieve their life goals? What does it say about us that we will tune in, and vote, and revel in the opportunity to play God?
Those are all difficult questions to answer, perhaps.Ultimately, turning human beings, in particular women and children, into a “prize” in a contest is degrading and demeaning, both in these radio shows and in the American reality TV shows that so many people tune into. The difference here, however, is that the victims in these cases are not willingly signing up to be a prize and the women in particular who may end up going home with the prize winner may be doing so simply to escape a desperate financial situation.
Image credit: screen captures from radio station contest pages