I opened an e-mail from my daughter recently, she was outraged by a news story about an Edmonton radio station that was running a contest offering the winner a mail order bride. The contest has generated a lot of publicity as well as a lot of controversy. CBC Edmonton, CTV Edmonton and the Edmonton Journal all ran the story.

Thomas Lukaszuk, Alberta’s Employment and Immigration Minister, pulled his office’s advertisement from The Bear 100.3, according to Edmonton Journal reporter Nikki Thomas, the minister felt the contest was in poor taste.

CTV Edmonton reported that 64 people have entered the contest dubbed “Win a Wife” by The Bear radio station.  CTV points out the radio station is known for pulling what it terms “crazy stunts”.

And according to The Edmonton Journal the radio station has responded to criticism of the contest via an e-mail written by Rob Vavrek, brand director for The Bear in which he claims the contest is misunderstood. In the e-mail Vavrek compares the contest with reality television shows like “The Bachelor” .

CBC Edmonton reported that the radio station is partnering with an online matchmaking service.  The news agency quoted Andrea Burkhart, with Alberta’s Action Coalition on Human Trafficking, who said that it is unknown how the potential brides would be brought into the contest.

The CBC also interviewed a contestant who sees nothing wrong with the contest.

The Edmonton Journal quoted Minister Lukaszuk, “In some parts of the world where women make themselves available to be Internet brides or through international dating agencies … they very seldom have that choice. They are either coerced into that position by despairing economic circumstances or they are coaxed into it by illegal elements,” he said.

The winner of the contest will be declared at the end of this month.

So my question is this: Should the fore-mentioned news agencies have covered the story?

The story has generated two main responses one young man on my face book called it hilarious while others are shocked and outraged by it. I am also interested in knowing more about the overseas agency that has partnered with the station. What criteria do they follow when they sign up women to be potential brides for grooms they have never met. And how do they screen potential grooms? What safe guards are in place?

If these women are coerced as Alberta’s Immigration Minister intimates then this is a human rights issue. The issue of human trafficking was also vaguely referred to in coverage by the CBC.

These are serious issues. By reporting on the story are the news agencies shedding light on a real human problem or are they giving the Bear radio station unjustifiable publicity?

What do  you think?


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6 thoughts on “Win a wife???????

  1. It’s quite interesting, the tactics some radio station programmers will go to in order to sustain listener loyalty and attempt to tip the ratings in their favour. What’s worse, though, is that the demographic they are likely targeting is not mature enough to see through the glitz. Having spent many years in the radio business, I’ve hear competitive stations do some pretty bizarre things, but this one might be pushing the limit. It would be very interesting to hear what the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council might have to say, should anyone actually file a complaint with them over the contest.

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    1. There has been strong condemnation of the contest and at the moment there is a petition circulating demanding that the contest be pulled off the air. As far as the CBSC goes I have not heard or read anything about any complaints being filed. It’s a bit of an ethical dilemma – on one hand we don’t want to stomp on free speech, on the other hand how are women safeguarded from becoming enmeshed in human trafficking, which is a global problem.

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    2. I agree with Don. It seems like a lot of commercial radio stations are racing to the bottom. I call it the Howard Stern Effect.

      Don mentions the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council. I wonder whether a case such as this might result in a “freedom of expression” challenge should the CBSC fine the radio station.

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  2. It is a very interesting post, Carol. The UN Palermo Trafficking Protocol gave the following definition of “human trafficking”:

    (a) […] the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs;
    (b) The consent of a victim of trafficking in persons to the intended exploitation set forth in subparagraph (a) of this article shall be irrelevant where any of the means set forth in subparagraph (a) have been used;
    (c) The recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of a child for the purpose of exploitation shall be considered “trafficking in persons” even if this does not involve any of the means set forth in subparagraph (a) of this article;
    (d) “Child” shall mean any person under eighteen years of age.

    I am not sure that the Russian or former USSR countries’ women have been coerced into participation of the contest. The online matchmaking business is booming in Eastern Europe. Certainly, nobody can prevent these women from their search for a better life. The problem is that during times of the USSR, our countries were closed behind the Iron Curtain. Authorities only allowed official delegations of communistic officials or sportsmen and ballet dancers to travel abroad. Since “perestroika” started former USSR countries have experienced political and economical turmoil. Many people’s savings vanished as the result of default but since 2000 there is economic growth.
    My point of view is that many girls from Eastern Europe are just curious about the world and that is why they are involved in such adventures like online matchmaking or the “win a wife” contest. I don’t think that there is a case of illegal coercion; it could be tested as marriage fraud by immigration authorities. But again, to deliver some legal judgement you need to know every detail.
    The illegal trafficking of human beings is a huge problem for the countries of the former USSR. The forms of such trafficking differ from what you describe in your post.
    It is also a question of self-respect and taste, Carol. Some people don’t mind to be a striptease dancer while others do not want to do it. However, we do not have such a desperate economical situation like in many African counties where people struggle for survival.

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  3. Yes, Anna a lot of this kind of thing is driven by economic injustice the impels people to take such drastic measures as participating in this kind of thing. As journalists, we often have to look behind the surface of a story to the deeper issues.

    I’m lovin’ this blog, Carol.

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