John Boy & Billy, hip-hop radio lead local FCC complaints

Plus: Spirit Air's dirt-cheap fares to Panama and Costa Rica; 'Charlotte Squawks' tones down the politics; Panthers plan field-level 'bunker suites'

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FCC receives objections from Charlotte about vulgar language, Stephen Colbert joke, brain-eating zombies

There’s always something people don’t like on TV or radio. But 31 people in the last four years were so outraged with Charlotte-area broadcasters that they filed complaints with the federal government.

Leading the way on radio were gripes about offensive language from John Boy & Billy, the morning-show hosts at 99.7 The Fox, and complaints about vulgar music at hip-hop station Power 98.

For TV, the most local complaints came in response to the description of a bizarre sexual practice referred to as a “Frosty Jim” on Fox’s “The Family Guy” and to an infamous off-color joke about President Trump and Vladimir Putin by CBS’ Stephen Colbert. There were also complaints about fake weather alerts by WBTV and about a WCNC reporter showing too much on-air cleavage.

The Ledger obtained the obscenity and profanity complaints from the Federal Communications Commission under the Freedom of Information Act. The FCC says it reviews all complaints. But it opens formal investigations in only a small percentage of complaints and seeks fines or other sanctions only rarely. There’s no indication any of the Charlotte complaints resulted in sanctions.

Of the local complaints, 14 were directed at radio stations, while 17 sprang from TV programs. Here are some of the highlights, by broadcaster:

Radio

News Talk 1110 WBT

June 24, 2015: Rush’s bullsh—

“Rush Limbaugh used an offensive word on his show on June 1, 2015. It was the word ‘bullsh—.’”

99.7 The Fox (WRFX)

Aug. 1, 2016: John Boy and Billy’s “hate and bigotry”

“I have been listening to John Boy and Billy’s ‘The Big Show’ for 30 years. I can no longer withhold my consternation of the program. These people have been fostering HATE and bigotry against non-Christians, atheists, LGBT people and people of color since day one!”

May 26, 2017: Taking shrooms

“Listening to the Sixx Sense show on my local radio station (99.7 WRFX). The people talked about the taking of illegal drugs and that they should take mushrooms. This doesn’t belong on public radio stations.”

July 24, 2018: Transgenders and “Deliverance”

“This morning I was listening to the John Boy and Billy Show. One of the skits had a joke that all transgender people should go to hell and have the devil do to them what Ned Beatty had done to him in ‘Deliverance.’ Seriously? They said, on the radio, with kids listening, that transgender people should go to hell and be raped/sodomized by the devil. There has to be something that can be done about this level of offensive speech.”

Feb. 16, 2018: Black comedian’s slurs

“Please tell John Boy and Billy’s black comedian not to use the racial slurs ‘cracker,’ ‘redneck,’ etc.”

105.3 RnB (WOSF)

Aug. 26, 2016: Macaroni propaganda

“The morning show host spews racist propaganda every morning. Calls Caucasian people macaroni and plantation owners. This would never happen on a white person’s radio show.”

90.7 WFAE

Jan. 20, 2017: Inauguration obscenity

“I was listening to inauguration coverage around 8:30am on WFAE 90.7, the local NPR station, and they cut to live protesters in Washington, D.C., who were shouting obscenities repeatedly followed by the president-elect’s name. (‘F--- Trump!’) Though they cut away moments later and tried to explain it as people only shouting the president-elect’s name, you could clearly hear the obscenity shouted in front of ‘Trump.’ I was offended by this and can’t believe they did not take better precautions to control their on-air content.”

Power 98 (WPEG)

May 2, 2017: “Racist radio”

“97.9 FM/ Power 98 in Charlotte, N.C., has to be the most racist radio station I have ever heard. They are talking bad about white people and talking about problems black people have because of white people. I like rap and usually don’t get into all of this mess, but they are taking it [a] little too far.”

March 15, 2019: Vulgar and obscene music

“In Charlotte, there is a station called Power 98. The station plays vulgar music. All of the music is obscene: illicit sex, drugs and violence. The later it gets, vulgar words like ‘n----’ or ‘f---’ are not bleeped out. They purposely have callers that call in cursing and being vulgar. They only partially censor the vulgar language.”

Television

WCCB (The CW)

Feb. 17, 2015 (three identical complaints): Family Guy’s “Frosty Jim”

“This is a formal complaint of indecency on broadcast television.

“Program Title: Family Guy …

“During the episode, a ‘Family Guy’ character, Quagmire, is on trial for statutory rape. When the trial starts, the prosecutor questions a policeman, and their dialogue is as follows:

“Lawyer: ‘Now please tell us what Mr. Quagmire said he did with the girl.’

“Joe: ‘He said he gave her a Frosty Jim.’

“Lawyer: ‘And can you please explain to the courtroom what a Frosty Jim is?’

“Joe: ‘Well, it’s when you urinate in a condom and tie it off, freeze it and pretend it’s a man.’

“I believe that Family Guy’s description of this explicit sexual terminology violates the broadcast indecency law, and I believe that joking about statutory rape, as ‘Family Guy’ did throughout this episode, exceeds the standards of decency for my community for the broadcast medium.”

Editor’s note: Although the “Family Guy” complaint lists WCCB, that station stopped carrying Fox programming in 2013. It shifted to WJZY, Fox 46.

March 18, 2016: Two women kissing

“A show called the ‘100’ aired at 9:00pm on March 17, 2016. The show aired on WCCB from Charlotte. The show had 2 women kissing, and they undressed and went to bed with one another. There was nudity.”

March 11, 2015: CW’s brain-eating zombie

“The CW has been running advertisements for a new show that shows a girl zombie eating brains during a time when my young children are watching. I do not allow them to watch these types of shows. I don’t even want to watch them myself, but certainly not my children. We were watching a news program when the advertisement came on.”

WBTV

May 17, 2015: Fake weather alerts

“On Saturday, May 16 at 4:40pm WBTV aired fabricated severe weather warnings. The station ran a crawl twice with loud ‘beeps’ stating there was a severe thunderstorm warning and tornado watch for Cabarrus County. A ‘commercial’ for Scott Clark Toyota accompanied the crawl. There was NO warning or watch from the National Weather Service. There were NO storms within 200 miles of the Charlotte area. WBTV frequently hypes weather for promotional purposes. This was a new low.”

May 5, 2017: Colbert’s infamous Trump/Putin “c*ck holster” joke

“Stephen Colbert’s behavior and the obscene things he said about homosexuals and our President were simply inexcusable.”

May 5, 2017

“We heard vulgar remarks from Steven Colbert on ‘The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,’ CBS affiliate WBTV.’”

Stephen Colbert’s off-color joke about President Trump and Vladimir Putin in 2017 drew three FCC complaints about WBTV from Charlotte-area viewers.

May 8, 2017:

“I would like to file a complaint against Stephen Colbert for his unacceptable comments about President Trump. … This man should be fired from television for his lewd jokes and total disrespect for the president of our country. He even stated he would do it again. Only you can stop him from doing so. Please don’t let the viewers down by catering to this vile human being.”

WJZY Fox 46

May 14, 2016: F-word

“WJZY in Charlotte, NC aired the ‘F Word’ at about 9:18pm on Saturday, May 14, during a commercial for the show ‘Coupled.’”

WCNC

June 25, 2016: Low-cut, cheap blouse

“The weather lady, Sarah Fortner, told her viewers a few weeks ago, ‘When you’re out Sunday at church, it will be a sunny day.’ We feel that statement is inappropriate.

“News reporter Tanya Mendis was wearing a low-cut blouse about a week ago which looked unprofessional and cheap. We emailed the station 2 times without getting a response from management.”

July 20, 2016: Reporter shows too much boob

“Reporter Tanya Mendis was wearing a low-cut dress showing half of her breasts while doing a report about 2 weeks ago.”

Sept. 21, 2016: “F— the Polce” sign

“During coverage of a local protest, WCNC in Charlotte showed lived shots of a crowd. In the crowd several people were holding signs that read ‘F--- the Police.’ These were very clear in their live shot. What is worse is the station repeatedly went back to the live shot showing these signs. It is one thing to have something accidentally appear on a live shot, but to not alter the shot and to continue to show it for prolonged periods of time is not right.”

WSOC

Dec. 28, 2017: Underwear ad

“The Kohl underwear advertisement on WSOC-TV in Charlotte was pornography and should not be allowed.”


Spirit starts from CLT with super-low fares — but not as low as they look

Spirit Airlines starts service out of Charlotte in late June, and the no-frills carrier is offering some unusually low airfares — not just within the United States, but to Central and South America as well.

Spirit is offering one-stop, round-trip fares as low as…

Put another way, on certain dates, it’s cheaper to fly to San Jose, Costa Rica, than to San Jose, Calif. — and only a little more expensive to fly to Panama City, Panama, than to Panama City, Fla.

Spirit is also showing fares as low as $80 round-trip to Newark, N.J., and $68 to Baltimore.

What’s going on: Airlines usually start service to a new airport with low fares. Spirit’s flights start June 20. It will fly non-stops from Charlotte to Orlando; Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; Baltimore; and Newark, N.J. The flights to Central and South America connect through Fort Lauderdale or Orlando. Competitors haven’t matched the fares.

Everything costs extra: Spirit is a low-fare carrier. Nowadays, that means you have to pay extra for pretty much everything, including checked bags, carry-on bags, reserved seats and refreshments. So the fares are only as low as they are if you have no bags, bring your own food on board and don’t care if you’re stuck in an undesirable seat. Spirit refers to this as “A la smarte” pricing. Fees vary by route.

Pro search tip: Try finding flights with Google Flights. It is easier to use than Spirit’s website.

Cheap flights coming — especially if you have no bags, don’t care about middle seats and don’t need to eat.

Bottom line: You can find some low fares on Spirit at the moment for travel this summer. But when you see a low fare, mentally add in a little bit for those “extras.”

As one travel website put it in a thorough and helpful review: “Spirit is an ultra-low-cost carrier, so adjust your expectations appropriately.”


Memorial Day weekend 2020: racin’ vs. baseball

The news yesterday that Charlotte has landed the 2020 ACC baseball tournament means that the area will be home to two major sporting events the same weekend.

That’s because the Coca-Cola 600, the culmination of 10 days of car-racing events, is scheduled at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 24, 2020. The ACC baseball tournament at BB&T Ballpark runs May 19-24.

In earlier years in Charlotte’s history, it would have been unthinkable that the region would host two big, multi-day events at the same time. But either Charlotte has grown so much that it can easily support two major sports concurrently — or NASCAR has declined to the point that it created an opening.


Review: Less-political ‘Squawks’ is funniest in years

In one musical number of “Charlotte Squawks,” the satirical show that opened its 15th season this week, the characters frolic at the beach, lamenting that 2019 is “The Summer of District 9.” It’s a reference to the battle for the state’s Ninth Congressional District, set to the Bryan Adams hit “Summer of ’69.” Rather than endure the tiresome mudslinging between Dan Bishop and Dan McCready, the characters say, they’d prefer “no politics.”

That aversion to politics is an appropriate lens through which to view this year’s production of “Charlotte Squawks”: It dials down the over-the-top and predictable national-political jabs of recent years in favor of local targets new and old. Sure, there are the familiar tunes poking fun at big banks, the Hornets’ losing ways and Charlotte’s frustrating traffic. But jokes also hit newer sources of ridicule: the Untappd beer festival fiasco, Panthers owner David Tepper’s lack of undershirts and — in a piece that could be the highlight of the night — your neighbors who post coyote sightings on Nextdoor (a parody of the Les Mis tune “One Day More”).

In a Q&A after this week’s preview show, emcee Mike Collins explained that the shift away from politics was by design. People on both sides just get too angry, he said. This year’s show is better for it. Charlotte is filled with ripe local targets — Lime scooters, the Law Offices of Michael A. DeMayo, glow-in-the-dark ramen noodles, Ballantyne. “Squawks” mercilessly skewers dozens of them over two hours with only minimal political preening.

Not every joke lands, but enough of them do. Some of the rapid-fire lyrics can be tough to understand. But the writing by McGuireWoods partner Brian Kahn is brilliant, original and very Charlotte. The cast, costumes and choreography are all strong. It’s a raucous, fun time, the best “Squawks” in years.

It runs through June 23 at the Booth Playhouse at the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center uptown. Tickets start at $25.


In brief

  • Panthers plan “bunker suites”: The team has put out a request for proposals for an unknown number of 10- to 12-person field-level lounges, according to the trade publication VenuesNow. Each would include “a wet bar, living room area, dining table, restrooms and catered meals” and would be ready for the 2020 season.

  • “Dynamic” frequent-flier awards coming: American Airlines plans to follow the lead of competitors Delta and United and move away from a fixed reward chart, an American exec said Thursday. That will probably mean award flights, on average, will cost more frequent flier miles. (View from the Wing)

  • Unnamed Bank Air: BB&T plans to build a hangar for corporate jets at Charlotte/Douglas International Airport. It’s merging with SunTrust and moving the HQ here. (Biz Journal)

  • World Nightclub update: Following up on Wednesday’s report about patrons slamming the Music Factory club online for broken air conditioning and running out of bottled water, a Charlotte Fire Department spokesman told the Ledger that fire trucks responded to a report of overcrowding at the club but that no citations were issued.

  • Preservationists’ push: The Excelsior Club, a historic African-American club off Beatties Ford Road, was named to a list of most endangered historical places, ratcheting up the pressure on the building’s owner not to demolish it. (QCityMetro).

  • Local unemployment falls: The Charlotte area’s unemployment rate fell to 3.3% in April, down from 3.7% in March, the Labor Department said this week. That’s below North Carolina’s rate of 3.6%.

  • Vitner on retail: Wells Fargo economist tells real estate conference that e-commerce will change malls and that “the most valuable assets of SouthPark and other malls are the parking lots, which provide great opportunity for development.” (Business NC)


Food and booze news

A weekly wrap-up of the week’s eating and drinking developments

  • Whoa, Italian restaurant in SouthPark: Mama Ricotta’s is opening a sister restaurant in the old Zebra space across from the mall by the end of the year. It includes a “six seat mozzarella bar,” a “killer indoor/outdoor patio” and — wait for it — “a bigger emphasis on craft cocktails.” (Agenda)

  • Restaurant week dates: The Queen’s Feast restaurant week, featuring three- and four-course dinners for $30 or $35, will be July 19-28, according to a recent post by organizers. Restaurants and menus not available yet.

  • A tree walks into a bar: New South End cocktail bar will feature rooftop patio, and “the tree is planted right in the middle.” (Agenda)


Got a news tip? Think we missed something? Drop me a line at editor@cltledger.com and let me know.

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The Charlotte Ledger is published by Tony Mecia, an award-winning former Charlotte Observer business reporter and editor. He lives in Charlotte with his wife and three children.