Shut yo’ mouth

Earlier this year Freedom House placed Italy 73rd in its liberty of the press league table, classifying the country as ‘partly free’, a status it shares with Turkey, Burkina Faso and Haiti. This is hardly surprising, given that 80% of the population receives its information exclusively through television, almost entirely controlled, either institutionally (RAI) or personally (Mediaset), by the prime minister, Silvio ‘Papi’ Berlusconi.


It will be interesting to see what effect the refusal by the RAI to show the trailer of a new film, Videocracy, will have on next year’s Freedom House tables. Made by Erik Gandini and distributed by Fandango, one of Italy’s most courageous and culturally alert film distribution companies, the film looks at the the past thirty years of television in Italy and the sidereal shift produced in its cultural role by the growth and eventual dominance of Mediaset.

The RAI has refused to broadcast the trailer on the grounds that Videocracy is not really a film at all, but a political message, transmitting an unequivocable criticism of the government, a line of reasoning that would also exclude from the definition of ‘film’ the work of Michael Moore and Morgan Spurlock, not to speak of Rossellini, Godard, Nanni Moretti, Ken Loach and a hundred others. The RAI, given its well-known ‘pluralism’ (as in blind subservience to power), has decided that showing the trailer would require a second trailer to be shown, of a film that presented the opposite political viewpoint. It’s clear that such a film not only doesn’t, but couldn’t, exist without the retroactive cancellation of Mediaset and, oh joy, of Berlusconi himself.

What’s more, recognising that most people know what they know from their TVs, it claims that, by linking the prime minister to the country’s most important commercial television company, the film not only brings up the thorny, and unresolved, issue of conflict of interest – already a cardinal sin in post-free Italy -but also suggests that “by means of the television the government could orientate citizens’ beliefs, influencing them in favour of the government and ensuring their consent”. Well, duh, as Homer might say.

Mediaset, needless to say, has also refused to show the trailer.
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This entry was posted in berlusconi, freedom of speech, rai, television. Bookmark the permalink.

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