The Italian TV industry and the press applauded the appointment June 29 of the new RAI-TV board of directors, calling it a significant step away from the pubcaster’s long and uneasy control by Italy’s political parties. It marks, as oneTV exec hailed, “a turning point for planet RAI.”
Less than a week after parliament passed a reform law (on June 24) aimed at trimming RAI’s 16-member board of directors and purging it of political influence, a new five-member board is already in place, appointed by the presidents of the House and the Senate.
The main criterion they looked for was persons “of renowned personal prestige and noted independence.”
They chose three university professors — Feliciano Benvenuti, Claudio Dematta and Tullio Gregory, specialized respectively in law, management and science — journalist Paolo Murialdi and book publisher Elvira Sellerio.
Though their names mean little to the general public, their credentials appear impeccable — and above all, non-political.
Unlike their predecessors, the new board members have no political affiliation and no TV experience. These facts alone have led some observers to speculate they may direct RAI toward more cultural programming. Optimists cheer a return to quality; pessimists fear a loss of audience.
At its first meeting, the board will elect one of its number as the new RAI president, replacing Walter Pedulla. Within three weeks, it should nominate (along with RAI majority stockholder IRI) a new general director to take the place of Gianni Pasquarelli. It also has the power to change the three network chiefs and other management posts.
The fledgling board seems aware of the problems it faces. “Straightening out a company with 13,000 employees, millions of dollars of deficit and even more debt won’t be easy,” commented Benvenuti, who has experience directing banks. “But it isn’t impossible either.”
RAI’s current debt load is estimated at $ 1 billion. Its 1993 budget deficit is expected to top $ 55 million.