After years of being bombarded with a television diet heavy on a bizarre combination of nudity, sexual innuendo and political propaganda, Italian TV viewers are fighting back.

A Catholic media center in the northern town of Padua is doing something unheard of: Organizing a letter-writing campaign targeted at Silvio Berlusconi and RAI to protest sex and violence on TV.

Foreigners tuning in to Italian TV are often amazed by what they see: The blood-spattered victim of a Mafia hit man, live from Palermo; national political figures insulting one another with four-letter words in televised debates; a lunchtime variety show featuring 100 teenage girls playing games in Lycra miniskirts.

Italian TV has attracted international attention for its freewheeling attitude toward showing nudity and even sex on the small screen. A decade of deregulation has made the Italo airwaves into a lustful, if somewhat vacuous celebration of extremism.

Ten years ago, Italian TV viewers were probably delighted when RAI’s monopoly was challenged by Silvio Berlusconi–it meant that the pubcaster’s programming veered from drab to lively. Now the mood of the country is turning as recession looms and corrupt politicians are being put in jail in an ongoing bribery scandal.

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