Saturday, July 14, 2007


Today' s FT has a piece about "Italy, the land that feminism forgot". It's deservedly critical of the role of women on Italian television:

If you are home before the 8pm news on Rai Uno, Italy’s main television station, you will discover it is preceded by a quiz show called L’Eredita (“The Inheritance”). In the middle of the programme, four ritzy women interrupt the competition to dance. “My jewels!” the male host exclaims. The dancing has no connection to the rest of the show; Rai Uno explains on its website that the “girls… with their presence and beauty, cheer up everyone watching, particularly men”.

Try squaring that with this laughably correct-but-wildly-implausible ambition from Rai's ethical code:

"Rai recognises the value of the human being, and entrusts itself with the task of not only guaranteeing but also developing our inviolable rights. Given this, the image of women should not correspond to reductive or instrumentalising stereotypes"

Unfortunately, the role of these wome - the veline - is well rooted in Italian television. Whilst the idea is pretty depressing, the derivation of the term is rather illuminating. During the fascist period, veline were flimsy carbon-copy instructions given to journalists, telling them which news items to puff up or ignore, the predecessors of today' s temniki. Sixty years later, the girls who brought news items to the Striscia's presenters became known by the same term. Sexism and fascism united in one red-white-and-green thread.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

How much information is complete information?

The Italian communications watch-dog Agcom has told Rai and commercial broadcasters to give more coverage of the campaign to call a referendum on the current electoral law. The instruction is binding, though any penalty could easily be evaded; but what possible (non-normative) justification can Agcom give for this? Let's say Agcom finds out that 5% of time of news bulletins has covered the referendum campaign. Is that a lot or a little? It presumably depends on how important one thinks the referendum campaign is. That seems to me to be a journalistic decision, not a regulatory one. Agcom should stop giving judgements of this type.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

We want more of the evidence we don't understand

Quomedia reports that politicians in the parliamentary committee that supervises Rai are asking for equal-time limits on political appearances even outside of election periods. I'm not sure why politicians need to have these limits. The most obvious interpretation is that they' re worried that Rai will be captured by an interfering government. But, as I' ve shown in a recent paper, existing data on politicians' screen-time demonstrates that even the (rapacious, invasive, bullying) Berlusconi government wasn't able to upset fairly stable patterns in the amount of screen-time the parties are featured in the news. Perhaps politicians will only take this finding seriously is sanctions kick in when it' s not observed. And then perhaps they should concentrate on more pressing problems.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Things I would like to find out

For any country,
  1. what's the average wage for a journalist?
  2. what's the average wage for a journalist working in the public service broadcaster?
  3. is there a trade magazine in journalism or communications?
  4. is there some magazine or annual agenda which shows the editors of the various television news desks? (Like Benn's Media in the UK, except better; more like Agenda del Giornalista in Italy)
  5. have there been any surveys of journalists?
  6. are the names of television news editors ever mentioned in the non-specialist press? Would someone interested in politics know them?
  7. are the names of television executives followed by party labels in brackets? Would someone interested in politics know these affiliations?
  8. How does one become a journalist for the public service broadcaster?
  9. Where did the first PSB journalists come from?
  10. Were the first PSB news broadcasts produced in-house, or did they rely on wire-services (AP, Reuters, TT, etc.,)?
Boring to you, life-blood for me.