At the first meeting of RAI-TV’s new board of directors on Tuesday, Claudio Dematte was elected president of the Italian pubcaster. He replaces Walter Pedulla.

A 54-year-old economist at Milan’s Bocconi University, Dematte is one of the five academics on the new, streamlined RAI board. Breaking with tradition, all five come from outside the TV world, and none has political sponsorship. They are expected to choose a new general director to replace Gianni Pasquarelli Friday.

Dematte’s strong background in business management appears likely to influence his plans for RAI. In his first public address, he stressed that RAI suffered from an excessive and unwieldy debt load.

“A company that has been the appendix of a state structure for many years needs to become a real business,” said the new RAI prexy. At the same time, he underlined the importance of distinguishing RAI — a publicly funded service — from its private broadcasting rivals, and of de-politicizing it in the interest of impartial news coverage.

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