updated 11/17/2004 3:46:54 PM ET 2004-11-17T20:46:54

A radio station owner will publicly apologize for falsely telling listeners the city had banned smoking in cars, prompting the city to abandon plans to file a complaint with federal regulators.

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Executives of Cumulus Broadcasting, owner of WXZZ-FM, were to appear before the Urban County Council on Thursday to apologize and offer a written assurance that the report, which prompted a torrent of angry calls, was a hoax. It will also give $1,000 to charity.

Officials in the city, in the heart of tobacco country, approved a ban last year on smoking in bars, restaurants and other public places. It was upheld by the state Supreme Court in April.

The bogus report that smoking in cars also was banned was aired Nov. 10, and three morning show hosts were suspended the following day. The three — identified only by on-air names Twitch, Mary Jane and Kyle — were back on the air Wednesday.

City officials said Tuesday that they would not file a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission, as they had threatened. But the city plans to send letters of complaint to the station and Cumulus’ corporate offices. Cumulus Broadcasting is part of Cumulus Media Inc., based in Atlanta.

The city received 875 calls because of the report, disrupting normal telephone traffic.

The hoax was intended to be a joke, said Chris Clendenen, the station’s general manager.

“There was no malicious intent and the city knows that,” he said.

The decision to drop plans for an FCC complaint was made after city and Cumulus officials sat down and reached an agreement.

“They seemed genuinely apologetic and we believed a local solution would be best,” said Gerald Smith, Mayor Teresa Isaac’s chief of staff.

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