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Canadian Parents Unplug Naked News

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Imagine a sixty-minute newscast with no news footage – only anchor people reading news copy, weather reports, and sports scores. Sound boring? Now imagine the same thing, only naked.

A couple of years ago, some innovative Canadians decided to open an Internet site and offer the world’s first “Naked News.” The idea is simple: Present a newscast where the anchors, reporters, even the weathergirl (or man, depending on the version you chose) are nude. Very nude. Most of the newscasters are seen in a full head-to-toe view, with – as the slogan for the program says – “Nothing to hide.”

Not satisfied to live their lives on the Internet, a weekly version of Naked News is now being offered to broadcasters around the world. Fortunately in the U.S., the show is only available from a Pay-Per-View provider, but in Canada a major television station started to air Naked News in early 2003.

CityTV in Toronto has a long tradition of pushing sexual content on its audience. Decades ago, when it was a small UHF upstart, it gained acclaim by airing “Blue Movies,” the antiquated term for soft-core pornography. These late night offerings still exist, and management at CityTV must have felt Naked News was the perfect lead into the “Blues.”

But just three weeks after its first run, Naked News was stripped from CityTV’s schedule, and moved to “Sex TV,” a cable channel owned by CityTV’s parent company, CHUM Limited. Undoubtedly, the nude newscast will reach a much smaller audience on cable as opposed to the on-air slot it previously had.

Hardly afraid to air sexually provocative programming in the past, my curiosity prompted me to phone CHUM Limited and ask why the program was shelved. Expecting to get a “stuffed shirt” response about difficulties with selling advertising after a smiling naked woman talks about war and poverty, I was instead greeted by a more than helpful receptionist named Lucy.
Excitedly she told me she knew all about Naked News because she had just finished auditioning for the show. But amid her excitement and obvious enthusiasm, she gave me an enlightening remark.

It turns out Naked News was pulled off of CityTV because, using Lucy’s words, “It seemed like anyone between 30 and 45, especially parents, called in and really complained.”

Although happy to hear the program was pulled, even I was amazed at the negative response considering it was airing at 1 AM. However, this is a remarkable example of how audience response can make a dramatic change.

My reason in covering this topic is simple: As Brent Bozell pointed out in a recent column regarding television in England, it is a safe assumption that trends in this globally connected world can and likely will affect people far away from the center of discussion.

Television producers and programmers are constantly looking for what works in other areas, and even other countries. How I wish Canada’s quality children’s programs were making headlines as frequently as their exploits into raunchier materials.

Instead, Canada’s broadcasters continue to delight in demonstrating liberal attitudes toward sex, and sometimes violence. For instance, programs like HBO’s The Sopranos, which run on cable networks in the U.S., are shown on major Canadian on-air networks in late prime time.

Adding fuel to this already hormonally heated fire, the Canadian government maintains a film development fund that loans money to producers and directors who often create “art pieces.” Some of these films, laden with twisted sexual perversions and innuendo, have won prominent European awards.

No doubt the United States is seeing the same push toward more sensuality on the small screen – and not just innuendo, but blatant nudity and sex. Let me assure you that your opinions are the key to keeping this dam from bursting and flooding television screens with immoral acts.

Like the parents who phoned CityTV in Toronto, keep a close watch on what’s happening on your local station. The radio frequency spectrum is, and always has been, public property. I can’t walk naked through a public park at 1 AM (and let’s hope we never can), so why should broadcasters be able to put naked images on our airways?

Obviously our first concern is keeping “prime time” and family hour clear of sexual content, but with many parents working shifts and families becoming more fragmented, it’s a safe bet there's a child watching television anytime of the day or night in America.
 If you are concerned about a program you saw, even after your children were in bed, pick up the phone and call your local station. Even better, write them a letter and copy it to the FCC.

With these efforts, hopefully we can keep the next Naked News off the air.

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About the Reviewer: Rod Gustafson

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