Public network suffering from interference

MILAN — Enzo Siciliano, president of Italo pubcaster RAI, resigned abruptly Wednesday, just 18 months after he was ap-pointed, accusing Italy’s political parties of exerting excessive pressures on the web.

“My decision is irrevocable,” Siciliano said. “I thank the ones who have supported my efforts to create a stronger public network, but I believe that political parties should take two steps backward from RAI.”

Siciliano, 64, was appointed RAI president in July 1996 by Italy’s left center government.

Before joining RAI, he was editor of the prestigious literary magazine Nuovi Argomenti, founded by Bernardo Bertolucci’s father, Attilio.

Siciliano has always incurred the criticism of the right wing opposition, led by TV tycoon turned politician and Mediaset owner Silvio Berlusconi. Recently, however, the Green Party had also begun to attack Siciliano and the other RAI execs, and asked the full RAI board to resign.

According to its opponents, the Democratic Party of the left-dominated RAI leadership is inefficient.

RAI has suffered in the recently issued ratings for the fourth quarter of 1997. Canale 5, the largest channel of Berlusconi’s TV group Mediaset, surpassed RAI 1. Also, RAI 3 has lost share, and the pubcaster board has expressed fears that advertisers could ask for refunds.

Some observers see the pressure on Siciliano as a tactical move in the game Parliament will play in the next few weeks, when the political forces will discuss a bill to reform RAI.

Likely to come under intense scrutiny are the composition of the RAI board, the structure of the network and its possible privatization.

Siciliano was said to have several differences with RAI general director Franco Iseppi about the direction of the network.

Today, the parties of the ruling coalition will hold a meeting to discuss how to face the situation at RAI. If Siciliano does not withdraw his resignation, the government may appoint an external commissioner to administrate the network until the reform bill is approved.

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