24 February 2006

Berlusconi and the media

Another Berlusconi story from the BBC: Berlusconi relishes power of TV.

Overseas commentators are forever marvelling – and ordinary Italians complaining – at the state of affairs in this country where one man controls almost every national television channel. As well as the stations he actually owns – which are renowned for their vacuous quiz shows and scantily-clad dancing girls – he also, as Prime Minister, pretty much controls the state broadcaster Rai. As a sop to critics, Berlusconi last year claimed to have reduced his power over the popular Mediaset channels – although they are still under his family's control.

When I was in Italy a month ago, my Italian friends were joking about the number of times their PM pops up on television. And a few television programmes were bold enough to mock him (that didn't stop them broadcasting his phone-ins, though). As owner of football club AC Milan, he appears on sports shows, ringing up to air his views live on television. There's no escape from his presence.

Italians watch a huge amount of television, and it's easy to see how control of the airwaves might equal control of voters. During recent protests by the arts sector in Italy over proposed Government withdrawal of funding, there were claims that the whole nation is being 'dumbed-down' by the Berlusconi diet of reality tv shows and the much-admired veline (coy dancing girls), with Italians less interested in their artistic heritage than ever before. Certainly living in Italy I've sometimes been reminded of Orwell's 1984. But that, along with the veline, is another subject for another day.
Read more about Berlusconi from Wikipedia.

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