Innocence is in the eye of the beholder, not the Bureau of Commercial Acceptance

Barbara Amiel March 12 1979

Innocence is in the eye of the beholder, not the Bureau of Commercial Acceptance

Barbara Amiel March 12 1979

Innocence is in the eye of the beholder, not the Bureau of Commercial Acceptance

Barbara Amiel

It needed the government to turn a numbers game into a losing proposition. This year Loto Canada will end up costing the taxpayers $13 million. In case you’re curious about what happened, the East Side gang (the feds) is not supposed to muscle in on the territory of the West Side boys (the provinces) when it comes to running numbers. In Mafialand, of course, you figure out the limits of your territory before signing up all your runners and hit men, or else you find yourself in a block of cement in the East River. Here, possibly because of a shortage of cement, Sports Minister Iona Campagnolo continues in office while the taxpayers pay off the contracts she seems to have had no authority to make in the first place.

But Loto Canada got into a bit of hot water over another issue as well, and it is being investigated by Warren Allmand’s intrepid bureau of public morality — the ministry of consumer and corporate affairs. For the edification of those unfamiliar with the burning ethical issues

at stake in this matter, let us review the facts:

FADE UP LOTO CANADA TV COMMERCIAL.

Video: Oodles of hideously healthy young Canadians doing things on parallel bars. Cut to: Moms standing by with approving looks. Audio: “You've got to practise. But you need that moment of competition, the performing under pressure. That ’s when you find out whether it’s going to win—or you are. Loto Canada revenues support competitions on every level to help Canada ’s young athletes get better and better at their game. Loto Canada. The Canadian Institution dedicated to the development of fitness and amateur sport in Canada. ”

Well, what’s wrong with that, you might ask. Nothing whatever, I would answer—but then of course I am the kind of depraved person who would see nothing wrong with people actually orally consum ig a glass of beer in a beer commercial. Our governments would never allow us to observe such a

spectacle—and it seems they’re objecting to Campagnolo’s innocent commercial as well. You see, in narrow factual truth, only about five per cent of Loto Canada’s (now mythical) revenues go to the healthy young things on the parallel bars. Eighty-three per cent goes to pay off the Olympic debt and its kid brother, the 1978 Commonwealth Games. Twelve per cent goes to the provinces to use as they see fit. (The ingrates probably used it to fight Campagnolo’s jurisdiction over the lottery.) All this might add up to misleading advertising.

Not if you ask me. Just as I don’t expect the Canadian wine industry to push its new ducky drink with x-rays of a diseased liver, I don’t demand that Campagnolo’s ad should run like this: Video: Mayor Drapeau scurrying down dark alleyways. Cut to: Various fat men lighting cigars with dollar bills. Audio: “You’ve got to practise. No matter how much you spend of the public purse, there is always a little more in it. That ’s performing under pressure. Finding out whether it’s going to win—or you are. Loto Canada revenues support inefficiency, alleged kickbacks, inflated estimates and other peccadilloes on every level of government. Loto Canada. Dedicated to helping Canadian bureaucrats get better and better at their game. ”

Of course since in our system an agent of the Crown cannot commit a crime, there is little danger of Allmand ever putting Campagnolo behind bars, parallel or otherwise. But sanctions are being applied against private advertisers every day who certainly take no

more liberty with strict truth than Loto Canada. They are being fined, censored or excluded from the air for reasons that have nothing to do with fraud— which should never go unpunished—but everything to do with the tastes and idiosyncracies of our innumerable regulators from the federal-provincial governments to the CBC.

For instance the commercial acceptance department of the CBC (which had no objections to the Loto Canada com-

mercial) was shocked to the core by the Gentle Touch bath soap commercial for the Jergens Company, showing a baby and her mother taking a bath together. The sexual innuendos brought to the CBC’s collective mind by this situation were nothing short of bloodcurdling. Wrote the ayatollah of the CBC: “Among the elements producing the discomfort were . . . the mouth-tomouth kiss, the continuous closeups and tne deliberate eye-to-eye contact. Everyone in the commercial acceptance department believed that this message should not be

accepted . . . Out of about 30 non-commercial acceptance people who saw the commercial, only two found no difficulty with it.” The CBC has similarly refused to accept an Insurance Bureau of Canada message called “Let’s Free Enterprise” and a similar Junior Chamber of Commerce ad on the grounds that “free enterprise is a controversial topic in our society”—an opinion that tells more about the CBC than the society that pays for it. There are scores of similar examples buried in the bulletins of consumer and corporate affairs, but I’m reserving them for my sitcom series.

Meanwhile, let’s make a deal—unless the government considers “deals” too much of a free enterprise thing. I will happily let the government run the Loto Canada commercial if it will stop protecting me from the sight of mothers with their babies, beer drinkers downing their foamy brew or from being told that free enterprise is okay. I’m a big girl now and capable of washing my own brain.