LITTLE ROCK (AP) — An effort is underway to stop a Little Rock radio station's annual "Babe Bracket," which allows listeners to vote on 16 local female television anchors in a beauty and popularity contest sponsored by a lingerie shop.
A TV station news director who once supported the contest wrote in a blog post Thursday that it was time to end the competition, which is modeled after the NCAA men's basketball tournament known as "March Madness."
He and some listeners to the morning call-in radio show say the contest, which started in 1997, doesn't acknowledge the women's professional accomplishments and wrongly concentrates on their attractiveness and personality. Others say there's nothing wrong with it.
The contest begins each March with 16 women in eight pairs. Listeners to a KABZ show titled "The Show With No Name" vote on which women they like best. Eventually, 15 are eliminated. Past winners have received a crown and flowers.
Stephanie Sharp, an anchor at KARK television, said that amid an international backlash against sexual harassment, the contest is outdated.
"I know it's all in good fun and no one is hurt, but it's 2018. It's not how we're supposed to be comparing professional women," she said. "And it's sponsored by a lingerie shop. It kind of tells you what they're going for."
Host David Bazzel, a former University of Arkansas football player, said he typically builds the bracket with anchorwomen who have appeared on the show to promote their journalism or local charities.
"It does raise their visibility in the market. They're savvy enough to know that it helps cross-promote what they do," said Bazzel, who with his two counterparts hosted Friday's show at the lingerie shop that sponsored last year's Babe Bracket.
A former winner of the contest says she doesn't have a problem with it.
"If the Babe Bracket helps me promote things that are important to me, I would say, 'Sign me up every year,'" said Donna Terrell, a KLRT anchor who has used her appearances to tout a charity she set up to fight colon cancer, which took her daughter's life.
KARK's news director, Austin Kellerman, went on the radio station two years ago to promote one of his journalists when she was a Babe Bracket finalist. His blog post calling for it to end has prompted two days of conversation around the city. He will let his journalists decide for themselves if they'll take part this year.
Bazzel said Kellerman's complaint rang hollow because television is based on attractive people
"It's a little hypocritical for news directors to say we're objectifying women when you look at how they're hiring who's going to be their news anchors," he said.
Bazzel said the hosts intend to run the contest again, though the decision hasn't been cleared through station management. He said if the contest is held and a woman asks to be left off the bracket he would respect her wishes.