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Italo TV fest gets makeover

Umbriafiction, the RAI-sponsored international TV festival held each spring in the Umbrian hill towns of Perugia and Gubbio, has been transformed into an independent event called Italiafiction running from July 20-24 in the town of Salerno on the Amalfi coast.

As expected, pubcaster RAI informed the region of Umbria Jan. 14 that it would not be contributing the nearly $ 1 million that makes up the lion’s share of the fest’s $ 3 million annual budget. RAI’s financial problems have forced the pubcaster to make hefty spending cuts. The remainder of Umbriafiction’s budget for the past three years has come from Italo private networks Silvio Berlusconi Communications, TeleMontecarlo and Videomusic, plus a combination of sponsors and funding from local governments.

Festival director Claudio Gubitosi told Daily Variety that he’s succeeded in finding funds from the city of Salerno to move the entire event down south. Broadcasters RAI, TeleMontecarlo and Videomusic will offer technical assistance and equipment.

“The festival of TV fiction will remain in Italy, but is no longer an RAI product. It’s now a private event at the service of theEuropean and Italian TV business,” Gubitosi said.

Gubitosi has streamlined the rather long and unwieldy Umbriafiction into two smaller events. The program competition (for what the Italians call “fiction,” i.e. drama, serials and sitcoms) runs July 20-24 and will feature what Gubitosi defined as “the 12 most important programs worldwide” in terms of TV audience appreciation. In addition, Germany’s Beta Film has been asked to host a workshop on children’s programming.

The second part ofthe festival, the international conference known as the Forums, will be held during the three days following Mipcom, skedded Oct. 10-14. The theme penciled in for the series of roundtables will be violence on television.

“We’ve been submerged with a deluge of faxes asking whether or not the festival will continue. It will. But it’s not the same festival as Umbriafiction. Let’s say it’s a sequel,” Gubitosi said.

He stressed that Salerno is an ideal location for an international TV event, since the city itself is well-equipped for conferences and tourism, whereas lack of hotel space was sometimes a problem at Umbriafiction.

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