Friday, July 6, 2001

Radio stations take battle
to court over remarks

By Erika Engle

Fierce competition between two Oahu radio stations is heading to court.

Cox Radio Hawaii, which owns and operates KXME FM (Xtreme Radio 104.3) and other stations, yesterday filed a defamation suit against New Wave Broadcasting LP over remarks made by on-air personalities on New Wave's KDDB FM (102.7 "Da Bomb").

The stations are fierce competitors in the Honolulu radio market and both have a pop music format.

The suit seeks unspecified damages.

Cox alleges that New Wave radio personalities "Kid" Leo Baldwin, Paul Ogata, Sam "The Man" Ambrose, and others it does not identify, defamed Extreme Radio in remarks about the cancellation of a concert by rap artists DMX and Juvenile. Ogata and Baldwin are also former Cox employees.

In the court filing, Cox states that DMX and Juvenile signed contracts to perform in Hawaii in June. The concert, planned for June 29, was canceled June 27.

"Xtreme Radio was informed by the concert promoters that the DMX concert was going to be canceled because DMX had accepted another engagement on the mainland and because the promoters were experiencing certain financial problems in getting the concert to go forward as scheduled," the suit says.

The radio station then aired announcements informing ticket buyers about getting refunds, and offering substitute prizes to listeners who had won tickets for the now-defunct concert.

The suit alleges that Baldwin, Ogata and Ambrose "repeatedly broadcast false and malicious statements concerning the cancellation of the DMX concert."

The suit said the competing radio station claimed "Xtreme Radio was responsible for cancellation" of the concert, that "Xtreme Radio dissed the entire population of Hawaii, that's how Xtreme Radio does things" and that "the other sucky (sic) station screwed you over and they lied."

New Wave Broadcasting General Manager Jeff Schatz and Chief Operating Officer Charles Cohn, in a conference call, said they were not aware of the suit and had not seen it so it would be difficult to comment on specifics.

That Cox would "go this route without contacting us for a broadcaster to broadcaster conversation, that they would just file a suit like this, that's really disappointing," Cohn said.

Schatz said he was unsure if there was any validity to the on-air allegations, and that they had yet to discuss the matter with staff.

Austin Vali, vice president and general manager of Cox Radio Hawaii, said normally he would not file suit.

"I understand and appreciate competition and First Amendment rights and all of that, but the comments made went far beyond that," Vali said. "They lied, they made a lot of false statements, they made Xtreme Radio look bad and they knew they were lying when they said these things. And they shouldn't be able to get away with that."

Vali said the company is not doing it for the money, "but we are a large corporation and its important for us to protect our reputation."

Attorney Jeff Portnoy, representing Xtreme Radio, said competition between local radio stations is known to be vigorous.

"But these were out and out falsehoods," he said. "And there could be no other motive than to attempt to significantly damage my client in the marketplace among listeners, advertisers and promoters."

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