Thursday, April 26, 2007

Why governments don't manage public broadcasters

"I want a situation without censorship, because I do not want to be responsible for whatever they may say" - Napoleon I, letter to M. Fouché, Jun 1, 1805.

Source: Baker, D. (ed)., Political Quotations (Gale: Detroit), 70

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Journalists' partisan leanings in Sweden & SVT

I'm currently waiting on the data from Journalist '05, a regular (every five years) survey of Swedish journalists, which are as I write being turned into book form by Prof. Kent Asp and colleagues. In the meantime, here are some results from the 2000 survey:

Public Journalists SVT Journalists
Left 15 31 33
Social Democrats 32 27 23
Centre 4 3 2
People's Party 5 14 17
Moderates 25 10 6
Greens 6 10 14
Christian Democrats 13 5 5

Journalists in general are more left-libertarian than the general population, being twice as likely to support the Left party, and almost twice as likely to support the Green party. Journalists with public broadcaster SVT are not markedly more left-wing than journalists in general: although they are more likely to support the Left, they are less likely to support the Social Democrats. In being three-times more likely to support the Folkpartei and more than twice as likely to support the Greens as the general population, they seem to favour the kind of well-meaning, intellectual borderline left positions taken on in the UK by the Liberal Democrats.

Lieutenant Chiti

The 'Bonsai' column in Repubblica has, over the past few months, been painting a wonderful picture of Vannino Chiti - Minister in charge of relationships with Parliament - as a type of electoral Lieutenant Columbo. From Wikipedia:

Columbo's signature technique was to exit the scene of an interview, invariably stopping in the doorway or returning a moment later to ask "just one more thing" of a suspect. The "one more thing" always brought to light the key inconsistency.
In like fashion, Chiti has been interviewing representatives from all the parties represented in Parliament, ever willing to come back and ask them just one more question about their ideal electoral reform outcome.

Unlike Columbo, Chiti has not been able to come up with a particularly screen-worthy denouement. Chiti was heard yesterday by the Parliamentary Commission on Constitutional Affairs. Here's the account of the meeting, again from Repubblica:

"Chiti explains that the process starts with the proportional [system]. Without preferences. But, as sought by the referendum promoters, without multiple candidacies. The minister spoke of different hypotheses regarding the threshold, and the effort to introduce a threshold of 5% - starting in 2016. The majoritarian bonus remains in Chiti's scheme, associated with a reduction in the number of parliamentarians... elected in smaller regional constituencies or single member districts on a proportional basis. The bonus will be assigned to the coalition or list which wins over 40% of seats. It will decrease in size, permitting a maximum of 54% of seats to the winders. The bonus will be assigned only if the Senate and Camera have the same majority"
This explanation leaves so many questions unanswered as to be of very little use. Chiti claims to have a text ready to present to Parliament, should they wish it; but it must perforce be a very skeletal one.

Those interested in reading Chiti's presentation to the Committee can find it on the Chamber of Deputies website [shortly].

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Public attitudes towards Rai

In my thesis, I claimed that "there is no available polling evidence on whether Italians believe Rai to be independent of the government". That's not quite right. There's no public polling data, but I've hit the jackpot through trawling through the catalogue of the Servizio Bibliotecario Nazionale: I've got Rai's own internal data.

Granted, it's from 1986. But still, it's tremendously useful. I don't know why the Fondazione Gramsci and the Fondazione Luigi Einaudi have copies, but I'm very glad they do.

They key data - on spontaneous and prompted responses to judgements on Rai - are as one might expect:

  • Rai is "an instrument in the hands of the leading class" [unprompted response]: 9.3%, a marked increase over the past ten years
  • Rai is "an organisation controlled by a few political parties" [prompted category]: 41.9%, five points down from ten years before;
  • Rai is "an organisation of the government" [prompted category]: 24.6%, five points down from ten years before;
  • Rai is "an organisation controlled by all the political parties": 20.4%, two and a half points up from 1979, or before the birth of RaiTre
  • Rai is "an organisation outside of politics": 4.1%, a marginal increase over ten years previously

So, Italian citizens judged [quite correctly in my view], that Rai was a political organisation; that it was controlled by an agreement between some parties, and not per se by the government or the entire political class. Let's take "outside of politics" as being equivalent to "independent from politics". If that's the case, then the 4.1% of Italians who judge Rai to be politically independent is much less than the 22% of Britons who judge the BBC to be politically independent.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

More on the independence of French journalists

Even better data from this 2003 CSA / Marianne poll on l'image des journalistes: 23% of French people think the media are independent of "political power", Patrick Poivre d'Arvor, Jean-Pierre Pernaud, and Claire Chazal are cited as particularly independent. Cross-tabs are included!

Journalistic independence in France

Via a long chain of googling too tedious to repeat, I find a wonderful poll on public attitudes towards French journalists. My interest was drawn to the question on public perceptions of journalistic independence. Two questions are asked, one on independence from political parties, and one on independence from economic concerns. Here's the time-series on independence from political parties. Only one third of French people believe journalists are independent.

Rappel enquête SOFRES

Déc 2001

nov 1993

déc 1994

déc 1995

déc 1996

déc 1997

déc 1998

déc 1999

déc 2000

From political parties and the powerful

Yes, they're independent

No, they're not independent

Wouldn't say




























Unfortunately, the question wasn't asked for different channels, so there's no direct way of telling whether journalists from France Televisions are judged less independent, say, than journalists from TF1. (One could run cross-tabs on main channel watched and perceptions of independence, but the link would be tenuous).

In general, the news isn't good for France Televisions: whilst in 1989, 43% of respondents cited either France 2 or France 3 as their most trusted source of television information, compared to 33% who said the same of TF1, the gap has now swung in TF1's favour, with 41% citing it as their most trusted source, compared to the joint total of 35% for France 2 and 3, with the latter gaining impressively.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Costs of Italian democracy

From Today's Repubblica (Vladimiro Polchi, "I costi dello stato", p. 9):

"How much does a parliamentarian earn? The calculation is not easy given the number of different headings to add. Senators and deputie take home euro 14,000 per month net of taxes. To the exemption of 5,486 euros (reduced by 10% with the 2006 budget) one adds: 4,003 euros "for the reimbursement of costs incurred staying in Rome", and 4,190 euros (4,687 for senators) for "reimbursement of costs incurred in the relationship between elected and electors". But that's not all. The MP need not worry about his travels, enjoying a "ticket for free movement on tollways, trains, naval, and air travel within the country". If s/he needs to go abroad, there are annuals expenses of up to 3,100 euros. The telephone bill is not a prolem: for his chatting, the deputy enjoys an annual sum of 3,098 euros; 4,150 for senators. Other reimbursements are made for taxis (3,233 every three months)."

Thursday, April 05, 2007

The 'bozza Chiti' and the effective threshold

From comes information on the size of constituencies in the new electoral system proposed in the 'bozza Chiti'. They will be 'sub-provinciale', at most, 'provinciale'.

Let's assume conservatively that the constituencies will be equal to the number of provinces.

Let's also assume, as a simplifying measure, that the constituencies will all be given the same number of members of parliament to elect.

So, dividing the number of parliamentarians in the bozza Chiti - 400 - by 103, we get 3.88 MPs to be elected per constituency.

The effective threshold per constituency is therefore: 75% / (3.88 + 1) = 15.36%.

Now, the effective threshold at the constituency level is not a good estimate of the effective threshold at national level. Rein Taagepeera, in a 2002 Electoral Studies article, suggests that the nationwide threshold is equal to:

  • effective constituency threshold / (square root of number of districts), or
  • 15.36 / 1o3 ^ 0.5 = 15.36 / 10.15 = 1.51%
So, if anything, the proposed system is going to present a less formidable barrier to parties than the previous system, which had a legal threshold of 2% (plus largest coalition loser). Admittedly, these are back of the envelope calculations, and the distribution of seats between constituencies may (significantly) affect the results. But, if a (more) reductive electoral system is a good thing for Italy, then we'd better hope that the constituencies are more numerous than the one hundred and three provinces.

Rai approves new service contract

Rai today agreed a new service contract with the Communications Minister Paolo Gentiloni. According to this write-up, the contract was extensively modified after parliamentary hearing. The one big word to take away from the process (or two words, for Ritchie-Bartlett watchers)? Unfunded mandate:
Il problema e' che secondo un conteggio 'interno' alla Rai, queste modifiche al contratto potrebbero arrivare a costare "oltre 100 milioni di euro all'anno", senza contare che alcune di queste clausole sarebbero di difficile applicazione per come sono state concepite in Vigilanza

[The problem, according to an 'internal' count, is that these modifications to the contract may cost over euro 100 million per year. Moreover, some of the amendments may be difficult to implement in the fashion required by the committee].

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Agreement on electoral reform in Italy?

Repubblica and the Corriere both report that the centre-left majority has reached agreement on electoral reform. The reform will replace the current law with a system similar to that used for regional elections. The text therefore is close to joint position of the centre-right, which augurs well for its chances of quick passage. By including constitutional reforms in the reform package, however, the centre-left ups the stakes.

On the basis of the coverage in Repubblica, we can say the following:

  • The reform is a type of bonus-adjusted proportional representation system

  • Candidates will be elected in constituencies (at least greater than 26)

  • There will be a national bonus in both the Senate and Camera on a national level

The precise details of the bonus, and details on the threshold, are unclear. Repubblica claims that "la soglia deve essere tanto minore quanto maggiore e` il premio di maggioranza" [the threshold will be smaller the greater the majority premium]. I don't understand why these two aspects of the system need to be linked. In any event, if the size of the constituencies is substantially reduced, the effective threshold based on constituency size may be more significant than the legal threshold. Again, though, details of the constituencies are not clear.

Additional constitutional reforms are included in the agreement:

  • Reduction from 630 to 400 deputies, and from 315 to 200 senators
  • end of perfect bicameralism
  • formal recognition of the Prime Minister's right to nominate and fire ministers
  • adoption of constructive vote of no-confidence

The agreement comes a day after the two main parties - DS and Margherita - agreed on a Spanish style electoral system as the only possible model. Members of the Udeur were apparently opposed to such a reform. According to a recent poll, the UDC's vote-share hovers around 2%, making it vulnerable to the higher effective thresholds of small constituencies in the Spanish style.

  • There are two stimuli for the reform:
  • the wish to avoid the possibility of conflicting majorities in the Camera and Senate, as almost happened last year; and
  • the wish to avoid a referendum promoted by Giovanni Guzzetta and Minister of Defence Arturo Parisi, which, in giving the majority premium to the largest single list (instead of the largest coalition of lists), would accelerate the formation of large single forces on left and right.

The reform text seems to be the smallest step capable of avoiding both of these possibilities. Given the effective veto power of all members of the coalition, who have vastly different electoral profiles, this is not surprising.

Monday, April 02, 2007

The best 'Dear Joergen' letter ever

Jeppe alerted me to a brewing storm in the Danish media. Former director of Danmarks Radio (DR) Christian Nissen has, in his new book about his time with the broadcaster, reproduced an email from Culture Minister Brian Mikkelsen complaining about DR's coverage of the Iraq war, and threatening to private DR instead of already announced plans to privatise the second broadcaster TV2. The text of the letter, and a cleaning up machine translation, follow:

Blot til orientering saa blev DR's daekning af regeringen og speciet Irak krigen taget op paa ministermoedet i dag foerst under morgenmaden af mange ministre og dernaest under det formelle moede. Der er en meget stor utilfreshed med DR's daekning som er meget ensidig - de har specielt set sig sure paa et par kvindelige vaerter og Ole Sippel (some mange naevnte som ekstrem i sine udtryk mod koalitionen). Det kom derhen til at udenrigministeren mente at vi ikke burde privatisere TV-2 som var fair i daekningen, men snarere DR. Netopdet forhold et det staerkende borgerlige argument mod privatiseringen af TV-2. Mange borgerlige mener at vi burde privatisere DR, some er anti regeringen, mens de ikke forstaar at vi privatiserer TV-2 som er positiv over for regeringen. Jeg ved godt at det er svaert for dig - i morgen var jeg saa i skudlinien for det var pludselig mit ansvar - men du skal have besked om regeringens holding. Jeg naevnte henvendt til statsministeren, at jeg loebende havde en fortrolig dialog med dig om tingenes tilstand. Og at jeg havde indtryk af at bestyrelsen og nissen tog det meget seiroest, men problemet laa hos Lisbeth Knudsen

If only to [inform you] then DR's covering of the government and specially the Iraq war was gone up on the meeting of ministers today only under the breakfast by many ministers and next during the formal meeting.

There is a very large utilfreshed with DR's covering that is very onesided - they have especially seen themselves cross with a couple of female hosts and Ole Sippel (some many mentioned as an extreme in their expressions against the coalition).

That came there to that the [Foreign Minister] thought that we ought not to privatise Tv that was fair in [its coverage], but rather DR.

The Netopd conditions an it starling-a little [bourgeoi] sargument against the privatisation of Tv.

Many [members of the bourgeois party] think that we ought to privatise DR, some is anti- the government, while they do not understand that we privatise Tv that is positive face to face with the government.

I know well that it's difficult for you - tomorrow I was in the line of fire for it suddenly my responsibility was - but you have to have message about the government's holding.

I mentioned turned for the prime minister that I had a confidential dialogue with you about the state of things.

And that I had impressions of that the management and Nissen took it very seriously, but the problem lay with Lisbeth Knudsen [director of news]

More coverage from the Copenhagen Post.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Reading list on Rai

I haven't blogged in some time. In part, that's because I've been in the Biblioteca Nazionale (sede di Firenze) reading books about Rai. A tentative bibliography of essential reads is below. There are some I haven't included, some of which I've cited in my M.Phil thesis, some of which I am certainly ignorant of :)

Abis, M.; Bossi, V. & Carullo, A. (1999), Lo spettatore attivo: 10anni di Osservatorio Rai e Mediaset sulla televisione, Mursia, Milano.

Balassone, S. & Guglielmi, A. (1995), Senza rete. Politica e televisione nell'Italia che cambia, Rizzoli, Milano.

Balassone, S. & Guglielmi, A. (1993), La brutta addormentata, Theoria, Roma.

Biscardi, A. (1978), L'impero di vetro : la prima grande indagine sulla RAI-TV, SEI, Torino.

Cardini, F. & Riccio, G. (1995), Il cavallo impazzito. Una stagione di polemiche alla Rai, Giunti, Firenze.

Cesareo, G. (1970), Anatomia del potere televisivo, F. Angeli, Milano.

Chiarenza, F. (2002), Il cavallo morente. Storia della Rai, Franco Angeli.

Curzi, A. (1996), Il compagno scomodo, Mondadori, Milano.

Curzi, A. & Mineo, C. (1994), Giu le mani dalla Tv, Sperling and Kuper, Milano.

Deaglio, E. (1995), Besame mucho. Diario di un anno abbastanza crudele, Feltrinelli, Milano.

Ferretti, C.; Broccoli, U. & Scaramucci, B. (1997), Mamma Rai, Le Monnier, Firenze.

Gisotti, R. (2006), Dalla tv dei professori alla tv deficiente. La Rai della seconda Repubblica, Nutrimenti.

Jacobelli, J. (1996), Cento no alla Tv, Laterza, Bari.

Jacobelli, J. (1992), Per una nuova riforma della Rai, Laterza, Roma.

Listri, P. F. (1994), I segreti dell'informazione: stampa e TV nelle parole dei protagonisti, Camunia, Milano.

Marconi, P. (1998), Stato e televisione, SEAM, Roma.

Mazzanti, A. (1991), L'obiettivita giornalistica: un ideale maltratto, Liguori, Napoli.

Moratti, L. & Jacobelli, J. (1996), Io e la Tv, Rizzoli, Milano.

Morrione, R. (1978), La rai nel paese delle antenne : uomini e vicende del piu discusso dei mass media : dall'era Bernabei all'era della riforma, R. Napoleone, Roma.

Murialdi, P. (1994), Maledetti . Diario di un anno alla Rai, Rizzoli, Milano.

Novelli, E. (1995), Dalla TV di partito al partito della TV 1960- 1995, La Nuova Italia, Firenze.

Pini, M. (1978), Memorie di un lottizzatore, Feltrinelli, Milano.

Ripa di Meana, C. (1973), Il governo audiovisivo : riforma e controriforma della radiotelevisione, Edizioni di note politiche, Milano.

Siliato, F. (1977), L'antenna dei padroni. Radiotelevisione e sistema dell'informazione, G. Mazzotta, Milano.

Borri, A., ed. (1992), Verso un'altra televisione, Eri, Torino.

Zaccaria, R., ed. (1984), Rai. La televisione che cambia.

Iseppi, F., ed. (1980), RAI-TV: il malinteso della riforma, F. Angeli, Milano.

Lopez, B., ed. (1972), Informazione e democrazia. La Rai TV in Italia, Dedalo, Bari.

Turati, C., ed. (1970), TV e liberta` in Italia: una riforma urgente, Milano.