RADIOLAND ROCKED

REPORTER: BRYAN SEYMOUR

The DJ, the bikini babe and the competition scam that's rocked the radio industry.The owners of the Nova FM chain of stations has sacked one of their star announcers after he was caught rigging a call-in competition. They're supposed to be monitored to give everyone an equal chance of winning.

"We knew that the winner had been a prior winner of other competitions," said Cath O'Connor, CEO of Daily Media Group (DMG) which owns Nova.Hans Buechle tried to hand over $10,000 to his model friend on Perth radio station Nova 93.7 FM. Listeners had to count the songs. When the one hundredth song for the day started to play, they were to call in and, if randomly picked, they would pick up $10,000.

Ashlea Reid was the stunned, grateful winner who'd been sitting in her car all day counting songs. Suspicions were raised when the blonde bikini babe revealed she'd also sat an exam at uni and gone surfing…

Then when someone called in to say Hans and Ashlea knew each other - the scandal went 'supernova'."Entirely shocked and disappointed… we couldn't have been clearer in what we require of our announcers," said O'Connor. As soon as she realised what had happened, Hans was sacked.

The most damning evidence came from Hans himself. He was recorded talking to Ashlea on the phone 17 minutes before her fake win, telling here which song to look out for so he could select her call. Amazingly, the call was only recorded because Hans himself likes to have everything he does recorded. "I think our listeners will appreciate we took really firm, swift action for a pretty unfortunate and serious incident," O'Conner said.

Nova has revealed Ashlea has won before. They assert that she picked up an Ipod and at least two double passes to Nova concerts and parties. They she has also won prizes on other radio stations, as recently as last week.

"I think you can see from the competition rules in place you can see that competitions will be run with full regard to the rules, this is an extreme act from an errant announcer," O'Conner said.

"I can guarantee it will happen again whether we know about it or not, I don't know," said Craig Seitam, who runs www.competitionguide.com.au "I think Nova acted very properly. They took very quick action and for that I commend them," he said. "The fascinating thing about this scam is that it has nothing to do with the promoter. We deal quite often with dodgy promoters, with SMS numbers and credit card fraud etcetera, this is the custodian of the prize that has actually acted improperly and that's something I haven't come across before," Seitam said.

Usually, Craig says, it's the agent or a third party playing the players. Worse still are so-called prize pigs. They're players who devote their lives to shortening the odds. One common trick is use multi-dial software to make ten calls at a time to the stations competition line, swamping the switchboard.Melbourne woman Margaret Simmons plead guilty to a plot involving a Telstra employee who discovered one radio stations unlisted number. They used it and beat thousands of genuine callers, winning $50,000.

"Terms and conditions specify that the person cannot be a family member or an employee of the company or an employee of the agency. It says nothing about friendships or other acquaintances," Seitam pointed out, adding that Queensland, Tasmania and Western Australia are the only states where you don't need a permit for this kind of competition. "We won't give Hans another chance at Nova 93.7 because we stand firm by the seriousness of the breach of those competition rules, we can't allow the system to give people a second chance when the breach is that serious," O'Connor said.

Story Links:

Competitions Guide

www.competitionsguide.com.au