Notes on Italian politics and public service broadcasting
i fear that the idea to "BBC - ise" the Rai, or make it apolitical or independent, is just a dream, even if it's a very, very nice dream. The lottizzazione of the state broadcaster has always constituted, or at least represented, a very serious problem which actually seems be getting worse. Few realise how deep this problem really runs and the full extent of the damage it wreaks. In order to achieve quality, television demands a meritocracy where the viewer ultimately decides and the most worthy products hopefully win, but how can this possibly be achieved within an organisation where executives, journalists, presenters, actors (actresses especially) producers and the actual programs themselves are almost invariably preselected due to personal or politcal affiliations and little else? Good and innovative programs have virtually no chance. Creativity is killed in its cradle and those gifted with it either soon learn to play a stupid game in order to survive or simply stop trying. Many worthless programs are made at the taxpayers' great expense. The media sharks make friends with politicians, wait for them to be elected, then start counting the profits. In any case, there's never long to wait until the next reshuffle. And it's not just the tens of thousands within the industry, those additional thousands outside of it who deserve a place but can't possibly succeed to break in, or even the whole viewing audience which suffers most - it's an important part of the whole national consciousness. It's a large slice of Italian popular culture. It's the effect of the news and information we are fed and the awesome power to inform, disinform or distort the facts at will, even by simple process of omission. This is a country where we still, all of us, are very much affected by what we learn from TV. Considering that this has been completely controlled in recent years by Sky/ Fox (Murdoch), Mediaset (Berlusconi) and the Rai (also, many would say, Berlusconi - at least up until today) making an independent voice of the Rai seems to be the only hope, doesn't it?Honest news? Quality local dramas, comedies and entertainment? All of it quite possible and within comparatively easy reach. Italians proved centuries ago to be a clever, creative and artistic people and many of them could do wonderful things tomorrow if given half a chance. But what a tremendous change all of this would entail. To begin with, there'd need to be a major staff shake-up. As I was once informed, you'd probably need to fire five thousand and hire five hundred. Most Rai executives feel they have a job for life and care far more about political survival than they do about the steady parade of programs which pass across their desks. It's not whether you win or lose, it's how you lay the blame. The Rai is so inherently political and so frequently corrupt it's been a morbid fascination for most Italians for years. Foreigners who come to live here or visit are often amazed to see how many newspaper column inches are dedicated to the goings-on at the Rai but it really shouldn't be such a mystery given the circumstances.A Rai like the BBC? Magari! If that seemingly impossible dream ever comes true it would be a revolution of the best possible kind.Amongst the many names proposed for positions of power in the current Rai reshuffle, there are actually a few people with both the will and the talent to improve things enormously. I pray they may get the chance but...I've lived here long enough to seriously doubt it.
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