Berlusconi crony wins top post at pubcaster

Sacca appointed in 3-2 board vote

MILAN — TV veteran Agostino Sacca was named director general of pubcaster RAI on Thursday.

Sacca, 58, is an outspoken supporter of media mogul and Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s party Forza Italia. He became head of RAI flagship web RAI1, Italy’s most watched channel, last year shortly after Berlusconi’s election. The pol owns Italy’s main private network, Mediaset.

The RAI board appointed Sacca in a 3-2 vote, with the two members representing the center-left political opposition voting against him.

The new RAI chairman, Antonio Baldassare, who has vowed to uphold the pubcaster’s independence, also has close ties with the National Alliance, the second biggest party in Berlusconi’s coalition.

RAI appointments have always been a source of crucial political battles in Italy because of the wide powers afforded to the board: It chooses the heads of each channel and the directors of news programming, and virtually has total control over how RAI’s political coverage is managed.

With a law pending that’s expected to allow Berlusconi to keep control of his media group, the Italian billionaire and his allies now have political control of more than 90% of Italian television in terms of share.

“The duopoly has become a monopoly,” socialist Enrico Boselli, one of the leaders of the opposition, said Thursday.

In the last few months, the opposition has made RAI the centerpiece of its campaign to draw attention to the conflict between Berlusconi’s official position and his huge media empire. Recently, thousands of demonstrators in several cities have taken to the streets to protest the pubcaster’s loss of political independence.

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