The Naked News programme on ETV has caused quite a stir, with many civil society organizations crying foul over the news format, where female newsreaders strip of their clothes until they are stark naked while reading the news.
This whole news format was popularized by Rupert Murdoch, and because money is the name of the media game, Naked News seems to be one of those commercial ventures that are out there to make a quick buck. The media seems to have adopted the sexualized infotainment format, where in order to attract maximum eyeballs and ears, more naked bodies form part of the package.
But Naked News is more about controversy than infotainment, and the obvious aim of attracting a mass audience has been achieved. But in essence, society and media has become so de-sensitized to the degradation of women that its done in a blink of an eye.
The media tends to forget that it plays a pivotal role in society in terms of how knowledge is produced and consumed, and ultimately, the impact this knowledge has on society. Media is the social site where prevailing discourses are created, repeated and normalized. What is portrayed in the media can become an acceptable way of life, hence the need for media to be responsible.
Naked News is openly using female sexuality to sell news, which is not a new phenomenon taking into consideration that women’s sexuality has been exploited for the longest time to sell media products. This female sexualisation has time and time again been a negative representation of women. In Naked News, the fact that the female presenters have to strip reduces the woman to a sexual object of lust and desire, because at that point, whatever news she reads falls onto deaf ears because she’s naked.
The stripping also perpetuates the created media assumption that a woman will only get attention because of her physical appearance and for sexualizing her body, offering it as a site of disposable pleasure. The sexualisation of the programme removes the human dignity of the women in show in that she is stripped to a lustful sex object.
Some of the audiences of the programme have come out saying that Naked News is all about entertainment, but because media has the power to normalize perceptions, this kind of entertainment is problematic.
Let’s bear in mind that the primary audience of the programme according to Naked News is men. Firstly, the sexual exploitation of women to make a quick buck is glamorized. In a society such as ours, where sexual abuse and rape are rife, sending messages that women are easy because they are willing to give sex at any given time, and its who they are (because they are naked all the time in the media) could further worsen social ills.
Because media is the site of knowledge, some people in society will tend to agree with content, and the more of sexual content that society is exposed to, the more de-sensitized they will become to issues of respecting young women in particular and become more prone to using them as the very same sex objects as the media portrays.
The content of Naked News also shows the deep sexiest ideologies that come with producing entertainment, where media has to rely on commodifying women’s sexuality in order to make a show successful.
Media ownership structures have a lot to say about this exploitation of media, since men are the purveyors of these sexual ideologies that get translated into content. The point that arises from this is that media, controlled by men, could create and maintain the perception that men find their identity in sex and sexual male dominance over women is desirable. In this way, men and society at large is being conditioned to perceive entertainment as good only if it contains sexual objectification of women.
Naked News does more damage to society than it does any good, especially in South Africa where the Constitution promotes non-sexism and gender equality. ETV might be a commercial station, but it also has a social responsibility mandate where the maintenance of sexualized images of women should be challenged.