Enough is enough. After years of being bombarded with ads that never would make it past the censors in other countries, many Italians finally have had an overdose of tv nudity.
Italian broadcasters, especially the private webs, have a well deserved reputation for leniency when it comes to airing spicy shows, sexy films and titillating commercials. But a government commission conducting a study on the image of women in the mass media has tapped an unsuspected groundswell of popular discontent.
The Commission for Equality Between Men & Women asked tv viewers to write in with their thoughts about the portrayal of women on tv and in the press, and promptly was flooded with letters from irate viewers complaining about advertisers that use sex to sell everything from yogurt and ice cream to perfume, cars and soft drinks.
Variety of respondents
The commission is not a regulatory or legislative entity, and the study was set up to create a channel of direct communication between the Council of Ministers’ Office and the Italian public. The commission received replies from grade school classes, university students and local women’s groups, as well as men and women from all over Italy.
No mention was made of “Colpo Grosso,” the infamous latenight gameshow in which male and female contestants play strip poker to win cash prizes. The worst offenders, per respondents, were commercials.
Though standards for RAI are more conservative than those at private webs, commercials on Italo tv in general are a dizzying parade of female derrieres, cleavage and thighs that would rival any Las Vegas show.
Writes Michelangelo F.: “To advertise anything from toothpicks to a tamed elephant, the propaganda wizards at the ad agencies can’t seem to find anything better that the lower half of the female body… legs and bottoms next to yogurt, watches, shaving cream, automobiles and soft drinks.”
The “piece of meat” school of advertising has two equally annoying variations, according to the commission’s letters: the woman-as-vamp cliche, and use of the color red to denote seduction (most often with a pair of red high heels).
Other letters complained about commercials in which women were portrayed as “stupid housewives and hygiene fanatics,” as defined in a letter from the Val D’Aosta region in northern Italy. “If a man appears in an ad for household products, it’s to buy his wife an appliance or as an expert giving advice,” the letter said.
Study will wrap at the end of next month with a prize for the best – and least-liked image of women in the mass media. Italian networks previously have operated in something of a legislative vacuum regarding program content, as there was no government body empowered to regulate programming and business practices of public and private networks.
American-style boycotting of products with offensive ad campaigns or politically incorrect marketing campaigns is unknown here.
But that attitude may change. After the broadcast law was passed in August 1990, legal supervision of the networks became the job of the guarantor for tv and publishing, Giuseppe Santaniello, tagged “sheriff of the airwaves.” Santaniello and his 200-person staff have the task of making sure webs don’t air films forbidden to minors, don’t exceed their ad limits, are properly licensed and so on.