A Canadian radio station sponsoring a "Win a baby!" contest has chosen the five lucky couples who will each receive $35,000 worth of IVF treatments, but not before telling them that only one couple would win. Hooray?
The station's original plan wasn't to cruelly jerk the baby-hopeful couples around, according to a station spokesperson. The contest was supposed to narrow down the more than 400 entrants to five finalists and then let the public decide who should win, presumably based on whose sob story was the sobbiest. Finalists reported not being able to sleep, obsessively hounding their friends and relatives to vote for them online, and being filled with hopeful anxiety in the month between being named a finalist and when the winner would be chosen. The weekend before the winner was to be announced, however, station administrators decided that they couldn't pick just one winner and gave the prize to everyone.
But the station didn't tell the couples this right away. They made all of them come down to the station and wait in the lobby while the hosts Ryan Seacrested all over themselves, delaying and delaying the announcement, even sending someone out into the lobby to ask the couples about how nervous they were and how many emotions they had. Finally, the host of the morning show announced,
The winner for Win A Baby ... the winner is all of you.
And, in the background, you can hear everyone bursting into tears. It's a strange bit of uncomfortable aural voyeurism, like a combination of watching a stranger go to the bathroom while simultaneously seeing your dad fall down a flight of stairs and break his arm.
Station officials said that they held the contest in order to draw attention to the fact that IVF isn't covered by the government of Ontario and can cost infertile couples tens of thousands of dollars (pretty much what it costs in the US). Just a hop, skip, and a jump away, in Quebec, the procedure's covered by the government. In 2008, a panel appointed by the Ontario government advised that three rounds of the procedure be covered, but so far, no action has been taken.
Party-pooper critics of the "Win A Baby!" contest say it shouldn't be up to a radio station to determine who gets to be a parent and that the entire contest reinforced the pervasive idea that what people do, reproduction-wise, is up for public discussion. They've also helpfully pointed out that IVF doesn't necessarily guarantee a baby (in fact, the success rate for the procedure is only around 40% per round for women under 35, and it only decreases as the age of the mother increases).
The radio station, Ottawa's Hot 89.9, plays popular music catering to women between 25 and 45. Did it occur to any of the couples who entered the contest that perhaps they were having difficulty conceiving because listening to too much Katy Perry is scientifically proven to render you temporarily sterile?
Canada, you may have the US beat in health care, college affordability, arts subsidizing, and general affability, but area in which your title is not coveted is the Weird Radio Contests category. You can go ahead and have that.
Win a Baby! [Hot 89.9]
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