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Radio hosts suspended for abusing Indian

By Arun Venugopal in New York
January 12, 2005 11:56 IST
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Star and Bucwild, the hosts of a popular morning radio show in the United States, were suspended by their station for making an abusive and threatening call to a call centre employee in India.

Power 99 FM in Philadelphia told that it suspended the duo for a day, January 12, after receiving an unprecedented number of protest emails.

The live segment occurred on December 15, 2004, when Star, whose real name is Troi Torain, made a call to inquire about a product known as Quick Beads.

The call was handled by an Indian call centre employee who identified herself as Steena.

Midway through the call, Star became abusive, calling Steena a 'bitch' and a 'rat-eater' before threatening to choke her. (For a complete transcript, visit or hear the entire segment here:

There was little immediate fallout.

It was only last week, after a station employee posted the segment on the station's Web site, that listeners began to mobilise against the station.

A number of blogs, including TurbanHead, DesiBlog and SepiaMutiny followed the story, as did members of the list serve for the South Asian Women's Creative Collective, and posted contact information for the radio station's personnel.

According to the Power 99 FM's News and Community Affairs Director, Loraine Ballard Morrill, the station received more protest emails and phone calls than it had for any past incident.

The vast majority of the emails came from outside the Philadelphia area. However, as of midday Tuesday, Morrill said no disciplinary action was intended for the duo. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that the only disciplinary action being considered initially was for the station employee who had posted the segment online.

By Tuesday evening, the station had changed course. Morrill indicated that Clear Channel, the station's parent company and by far the largest owner of radio stations in the US, had pushed for the suspension.

In addition to the suspension, the station posted a public apology for the segment on its Web site:

'The Star & Bucwild Show prides itself on walking on the edge. On December 15th, we crossed it. We know the pain racial slurs cause and apologise that this comedy segment went too far.'

No further information about the segment was given on the station's Web site. Neither was it clear whether the suspension would be explained to listeners. General Manager Richard Lewis was unavailable for comment.

This isn't the first suspension for Star and Bucwild. In 2001, after the death of R&B music star Aaliyah in a plane crash, their show made light of the incident by broadcasting the sound effects of a plane crashing and a woman screaming. Their employer at the time, New York's Hot 97 FM, suspended them shortly thereafter.

Despite the current controversy, the two are likely to additionally be carried on New York's 105.1 FM in the near future. They are also syndicated in Hartford, Connecticut. In the Philadelphia market, they are #2 in the 18-34 age demographic, behind another shock jock, Howard Stern, who last year received the largest fine in broadcasting history for violating the Federal Communications Commission's decency standards. In that incident, Clear Channel was forced to pay $1.75 million in penalties.

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Arun Venugopal in New York