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Naked News at 20

When it first hit the internet in 1999 as a web-based news service, it was dismissed as nothing more than a short-lived gimmic. But as it celebrates its twentieth anniversary, it’s clear that the novelty of Naked News - billed as ‘the programme with nothing to hide’ - has far from worn off.

In fact if anything, it has grown into something of a phenomenon, evolving into a lucrative subscription-only TV and internet show with a global audience which has spawned a host of imitators, as well as a popular online store selling everything from downloads to fan club membership for the presenters.

The concept - attractive girls gradually stripping off whilst reading serious news bulletins - might sound like a Benny Hill sketch, and was one of those ideas, like Trivial Pursuit and the Wonderbra, that could only have been conceived in Canada. But nobody can doubt its success.   

It may have its critics, and probably has more to do with titilation than naturism, but if you’ve never seen it, it has to be said that it’s not actually as bad as it sounds. Time magazine’s description of it “offering the best international coverage this side of the BBC” perhaps says more about the narrow viewpoint of most US media than it does about any intrinsic merits of the programme. But to be fair the scripts are factual and tightly written, the show is well produced, and whilst none of the girls are going to be nominated for a Pulitzer anytime soon, they do a reasonably professional job, on the whole reading the news without resorting to the type of innuendo or suggestiveness you would expect from their lack of attire.

They’re certainly no worse than their clothed counterparts on countless American, British or European cable TV stations, and despite its Playboy feel, the girls for the main part are also ‘real’ and naturally attractive, rather than the stereotypical blonde Barbie dolls usually seen gracing the top shelf.

So is it furthering the cause of an open-minded approach to public nudity, or just soft-porn? Probably somewhere in between, depending on how generous you want to be. It should come as no surprise to learn that the spin-off version featuring naked male presenters was dropped due to poor viewing figures, but Naked News has opened doors in other areas. The show features regular on-the-street interviews by topless newscasters in Toronto, which are made possible by Ontario's top-free equality laws, and as more US states relax their archaic regulations on the subject due to lobbying from the ‘free the nipple’ movement, we might well see more vox pops with a difference.

All will no doubt be revealed.


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