This will be all over the Main Stream Media later today, but I wanted to weigh in early because -- well, because I’ve been harshly critical of Leonard Asper and the CanWest Global Television Network in the past for their lack of commitment to Canadian drama and local news. Indeed, for a while there, it looked like Asper’s management style might bankrupt the company and take a healthy chunk of Canada’s television industry down with it. But the programming shift CanWest will be officially announcing today has to be recognized as sheer broadcast genius.
Over the weekend, Asper and his closest executive advisers hammered out a deal to purchase Naked Broadcasting Network Inc. owner/operator of the online presence “The Naked News”. But instead of simply adding NBN to his vast stable of media companies, Asper intends to bring the Naked News format into the mainstream, integrating the concept of nude reporters and anchors into all of CanWest's national and local newscasts.
“While other networks may keep their viewers abreast of the news,” Asper states in a press release leaked to this site, “we will be offering them several breasts while revealing yet another impressive dimension of our Executive Editor and National News anchor, Kevin Newman.”
Indeed, I’m informed that Newman, a recognized fitness fanatic and serial hydrator seldom photographed without a water bottle in hand, is also a long-time practising Naturist and eagerly embraced the new format.
Shown here flanked by Foreign Editor Stuart Greer and Washington Bureau Chief Eric Sorensen, Newman was already well known for showing up for work wearing only a Bluetooth earpiece and flip flops. Global News crews claim he did most newscasts dressed only from the waist up and they were forced to keep a sharp eye on the lower frame whenever he chose to move around the, ostentatious for a money losing operation, Global National studio.
Apparently, a year end one-on-one interview between Newman and Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty was the catalyst for McGuinty’s staff imposing its notorious “five foot rule” to keep journalists a safe distance from the Premier.
While there is no doubt Global will see a huge ratings spike with this initiative, one which will clearly set them apart from the clothed-person-behind-a-desk offerings of CTV, Rogers and CBC, there are on-camera anchors and correspondents uncomfortable with the new format. One Weatherman has already resigned after being informed that he no longer needed “a pointer” and several CanWest sportscasters have chosen early retirement rather than revealing they’re not quite the Man’s men they’d led their fans to believe they were.
But this was all expected and many “faces” familiar to the online subscribers of the Naked News will be moving in to take their place and Global will also be conducting a cross-Canada talent search for open minded journalists (until now a rarity in the CanWest empire) that will be showcased across all of CanWest's media platforms simultaneously increasing the broadcaster’s level of Canadian content and its access to public funding.
In one fell swoop, Asper appears to have solved both his ratings and financial issues. And it has apparently inspired him to immediately expand the concept.
This photo was taken this morning as Global News Videographers departed CanWest's Don Mills studios, fanning out across the city to cover the news, spreading the new “CanWest has no clothes” motto while also becoming the country’s most environmentally conscious network.
Whether the other Canadian networks copy-cat the innovation is anybody’s guess. Although I’m reliably informed that CBC Radio 2 tested the idea a few months ago but abandoned it when they saw no substantive increase in listeners.
I’m under a crushing deadline at the moment, but you can get updates through the morning here and here. And don’t touch that dial if it’s set to Global TV. Their next News flash will have a whole new meaning.
Thanks for playin’.