Play critical of Berlusconi b'cast without sound

ROME — Rupert Murdoch’s Sky Italia pay-TV platform aired a play lampooning Italy’s prime minister Silvio Berlusconi Friday night. But in an anomalous form of censorship, the televised play, titled “The Two Headed Anomaly,” was beamed without sound.

Viewers who tuned in to Sky Italia’s Planet channel to catch the stinging political farce got some 2 1/2 hours of Nobel Prize-winning playwright/thesp Dario Fo and his wife Franca Rame’s performance totally muted with a brief notice on the bottom of the screen

saying the sound had been turned off because of a libel suit.

The $1.25 milion libel suit filed earlier this month by Marcello Dell’Utri, a close Berlusconi associate, blasts Fo’s play claiming it is a gratuitous political attack which oversteps the boundaries of satire.

In Fo’s “Anomaly” a fictitious Berlusconi character, played by Fo, is implanted with Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin’s brain following a terrorist attack. Having lost his memory, the media-mogul-turned-politician learns about his past in unflattering terms.

Despite the suit, Planet had initially vowed that the provocative play would be beamed as scheduled. On Jan. 23, a prominent ad in the newspaper La Repubblica advertised that evening’s airing of “Anomaly,” which the Sky Italia channel co-produced.

Also on Jan. 23, a Planet spokeswoman instead said that at the last minute the channel had decided it could not risk the potential consequences of the law suit, after a close read of the paperwork from Dell’Utri’s lawyers. At first, Planet was going to pull the play entirely, but it then chose to air it with no sound and the explanatory notice.

“Anomaly” contains several references to Dell’Utri — a key figure in both Berlusconi’s Fininvest empire and in the prime minister’s conservative Forza Italia political party. Dell’Utri is being probed for alleged Mafia ties, but has denied links with organized crime.

“I simply don’t believe that this decision to gag the show really has that much to do with fear of the lawsuit,” said Fo, who thinks Berlusconi is “really responsible for the censorship.”

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