Tycoon-turned-politico offers attack rather than change

MILAN– Italy’s Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said Friday that his government plans to privatize two of the three channels of pubcaster RAI.

The Italo TV tycoon-turned-politico was, however, making more of a political attack against what he termed the “left-wing bias of current RAI management” than calling for an immediate change to RAI’s funding.

In an interview broadcast by France’s Europe 1 radio, Berlusconi responded to a question by saying that privatization of RAI channels is “in our plans.”

He added: “Until the day it’s privatized, RAI will remain in the hands of the left. Its management is incredibly biased. We want an objective and balanced public TV service.”

On Feb. 17, the mandate of the current five-man RAI board of directors, who were appointed by the previous center-left government, expires.

Replacements will be announced by the speakers of the two houses of parliament — both appointed by Berlusconi — in the next couple of weeks.

In the meantime, the billionaire premier still owns Italy’s largest private broadcaster Mediaset, RAI’s sole and direct rival.

RAI and Mediaset together account for 95% of the national TV audience. All Italian TV will in effect be controlled by Berlusconi once the appointment of the new RAI board is complete.

Both opposition politicians and journalists have been vocal in their opposition to Berlusconi’s growing control over the media.

“Berlusconi says he is a victim of ‘communist RAI,’ but I believe he is now planning to appoint a board at RAI of fake TV experts who will not stand up to him politically,” said Bebbe Giulietti, a leader of the opposition Democratic Left Party. “The core of Berlusconi’s strategy is not the privatization of RAI but having control of both RAI and Mediaset, and the advertising on both of them.”

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