San Remo Fest Strikes Sour Chord

The San Remo song festival has been nicknamed “the San Remo vice festival” by the Italian press after charges that fest organizer Adriano Aragozzini paid $783,000 in kickbacks to San Remo city officials.

Music impresario Antonio Gerini claims that Aragozzini paid off city officials in order to secure his appointment as organizer of the 41-year-old fest.

Now several members of parliament have asked that the live tv event be postponed “until competent authorities can clarify certain irregularities and flaws” in adhering to fest regulations.

In a document addressed to the Council of Ministers, the Minister of the Interior and the Minister of Tourism and Entertainment, the deputies accuse fest organizers of choosing competing songs “based on agreements with record companies.”

Appeal concludes by asking parliament to cancel the fest or at least pull all public funding from the event until the alleged breach of rules is cleared up.

But while the Public Attorney’s office and the Guardia di Finanza police corps investigate fest records from 1989, organizers continue business as usual. The event is skedded to air on RAI-1, Feb. 27 to March 2.

Scandal is nothing new to the four-day music competition, which generally ranks among the year’s five top-rated programs. “There hasn’t been a song festival in recent memory that wasn’t surrounded by lawsuits and scandals, real or presumed,” says Onorato Lanza, mayor of San Remo.

But while past scandals involved controversial jokes told comedian Beppe Grillo or charges that the festival was rigged or singers complaining that their songs were unfairly excluded from competition, this year’s brouhaha points to corruption at the highest levels of the fest.

Fest is funded a combination of city authorities and sponsors; RAI-1 pays the city of San Remo for broadcast rights.

RAI-1 topper Carlo Fuscagni seemed unperturbed over the prospect of the biggest tv event of the spring being canceled. “Every year it’s the same story, but this year the festival will take place. The appropriate authorities will determine whether or not the festival rules have been followed,” he said.

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