SYRACUSE — Hopefully you remembered today’s date before turning on the radio this morning. Otherwise, you may wondered why 93Q (WNTQ) morning hosts Ted and Amy devoted much of their show today to exposing the potential “hazards” of a substance known as DHMO.
Complete with pre-recorded PSAs and “interviews” with a “DHMO expert,” the pair told viewers how athletes everywhere are using the substance to enhance their performance. They talked about marriages are better when couples use DHMO, but even “just a thimbleful” of this “colorless, odorless substance” can be dangerous to one’s health if used the wrong way. Yet, it’s a relief that reasonable amounts “are not harmful” because DHMO is “everywhere.”
If you were paying attention closely enough to the broadcast, you may have caught them explain that DHMO stands for “dihydrogen monoxide.” And if you remembered even a tiny bit of high school chemistry, you know that’s just the wordy way of describing the chemical formula H2O — also commonly known as plain ol’ water.
If listeners didn’t figure out the gag from what was being said on-air, they hopefully realized it when they visited, at Ted and Amy’s urging, dhmo.org, a real website for the not-so-real “Dihydrogen Monoxide Research Division” of the fictitious “United States Environmental Assessment Center.”
Of course, everything Ted and Amy said was true — we all need water to live, whether we’re athletes or not, married or single. And it is possible to drown with just a small amount of water. But, by referring to water as “DHMO,” and comparing it to some “true” problem substances like bath salts, the pair may have briefly fooled listeners who weren’t quite awake yet, either this morning or during their chemistry classes.
Scanning the dial this morning, we didn’t catch any other local morning shows pulling any April Fool’s gags, but it’s quite possible we were listening at the wrong times, or maybe there was a station or two we missed? We also didn’t have time this morning to check out stations from Utica or Ithaca. So, if you know of any on-air April Fool’s Day gags we missed, drop a line to email@example.com or use the Contact Form.
We’re guessing it’s possible many other stations resisted the urge to try anything because it can be tough to put together a truly convincing April Fool’s gag without breaking the FCC’s “hoax” rules. The Broadcast Law Blog helpfully posted this reminder last week:
The FCC’s rule against broadcast hoaxes, Section 73.1217, prevents stations from running any information about a “crime or catastrophe” on the air, if the broadcaster (1) knows the information to be false, (2) it is reasonably foreseeable that the broadcast of the material will cause substantial public harm and (3) public harm is in fact caused. Public harm is defined as “direct and actual damage to property or to the health or safety of the general public, or diversion of law enforcement or other public health and safety authorities from their duties.” So even if the prank does not cause any injuries, the mere fact that an on-air report was false and it ties up first-responders, is enough to lead to FCC liability.
In addition to facing penalties from the FCC, stations and/or personalities could be held legally responsible for any damages (accidents, etc.) caused by an on-air hoax.