Radio phone pranks/taps: How often do they backfire?

Some radio shows, like this syndicated Seattle show, call up people and play (often cruel) pranks on them just to get outrageous reactions. I know that they have to get permission after the prank is over from the person being pranked to air it, but do these “taps” ever backfire to the point where people are fired and or defriended for playing tricks on their friends/coworkers/family members or, worse yet, police are called because the call is terminated before it can be explained that the call was fake?

This source claims that all such calls are fake-you have to tell people beforehand that they are being recorded for the radio. Is this accurate?

It took some Googling, but I found the actual regulation-- 47 CFR 73.1206

That would make the calls linked to in my first post fake, right?

I’ve always suspected the calls to be fake. I wasn’t sure if all of them were, but there have been a number of really badly acted ones that have tripped my BS meter enough such that I change the station when they’re on.

I remember hearing an interview with a voice actor who said that almost every prank call you hear on radio is a fake as they often get cast for that.

I have also heard that “100th” caller winning a contest is nonsense and they essentially just pick whoever they want, usually because they are enthusiastic and will make for a great sound bite when they are told on air they won.

I know a comedian who was cast for one of those calls (I think it was the Send Flowers to Someone prank), so at least that particular call was fake. I think they all are, but I don’t have any proof of that.

No doubt there are lazy DJs, though back in the day I’d call in and the DJ would answer the phone (before I could speak) with a simple “Sorry, you’re #XX, thanks for calling.”

But the phone pranks never struck me as particularly real. Even the ones where they call a person for a prank and identify themselves as on-the-air radio personalities (so the person can choose to opt out), without telling the real reason for the call: the person’s significant other is quietly on the line and in on the prank, which typically involved something inane like asking about their sex life.

The law appears to be saying that the radio station isn’t granted permission automatically. But I don’t see how the law as I’m reading it makes it 100% certain that such calls are fake.

Wouldn’t it be possible for the station to record the calls without letting on, and then ask the participants’ permission afterwards? And to (sometimes) receive it?

A big factor in whether they’d get permission would of course be how cruel and embarrassing the prank was. Also, how specifically identified the participant/victim was.

FTR, my experience is thirty years in the past, but when I dabbled in radio, I witnessed many such pranks after which the participants/victims gave permission for it to be broadcast. The allure of being heard on TV or radio is a strong pull to a lot of people, as is being cajoled, by name, by a local celebrity.

No, they don’t always get permission, and yes, it sometimes backfires.

A DJ in Phoenix was fired for calling the widow of a baseball player and asking if she had a date for the playoffs.

I notice that the bad examples come from 10 years or more back-Could they have happened before current laws were in place?

I’m glad to hear there are laws like that in the US. Very bad things can come from prank calls. A few years ago a British nurse commited suicide after she was pranked by an Australian radio show

Was it different in the past? On the soundtrack to American Graffiti, there is at least one call from Wolfman Jack to a business, and it sounds real.

It also isn’t very funny.

They have to be careful about contests, though. Back in the 90s, a friend was promoted from DJ to Programing Director. While she was a DJ, she would occasionally make me the winner of concert tickets, CDs, tshirts, etc. I’d get something in the mail maybe every other month over a three year period. In reality, I never even listened to the station.

A few months after her promotion she called me, frantic. The station was being audited (I forget what govt entity was involved) and all my contest wins was a big concern. She was afraid she might be fired and the station prosecuted. She asked that if interviewed, I claim that I used a different pseudonym each time I called/entered a contest, then when contacted about winning, I’d give her producer my real name. Luckily, nothing ever happened.

I used to have a tape of some amazing calls to a terrible radio preacher–a cohort of people would tell him shaggy dog testimonials that ended hilariously. One guy told of his drug addiction that resulted in an accident in which he lost his leg, and how he joined a church and found the power of Jesus, “And last month, my leg grew back!” Another talked nervously about his church’s speaking in tongues, and how it had progressed into Manwich-eating contests.

The preacher kept getting more and more frustrated and outraged at these people mocking Jesus. One caller called in to agree with him, supporting his mission: “I want you to know that Jesus will not be mocked, and I have your back one-hundred percent, and you keep preaching the good word no matter what they do! And I’m totally naked and covered in pancake syrup!”

I suspect they didn’t get permission.

(And if anyone has any idea how I could find these calls, you’d win a million Internet points for telling me how.)

If either party in the call is in a 2 party consent state, like Massachusetts, then recording the call without obtaining permission first is automatically a crime. Doesn’t matter if they get permission later.

Wolfman Jack called someone and they didn’t know who it was? He has one of the most recognizable voices ever!

Howard Stern plays a lot of prank calls on his show. Those are all faked?

Anyone remember the Jerky Boys:

I don’t think those were fake.

He nor the station made the calls. And most of them were made to over the air media and recorded from the feed.