Italy opts for money man as RAI prexy

Monorchio tapped for top post

ROME — Italy has selected the bureaucrat formerly in charge of administering the country’s finances as prexy of pubcaster RAI.

The choice of Andrea Monorchio is a surprise as appointment to the post, along with all the other top jobs at the three-channel, state-run web, is highly politicized and Monorchio has no known party affiliation.

Currently chief of Infrastrutture, a public management outfit, Monorchio was Italy’s top financial exec in charge of state finances for 13 years — under governments of different stripes — before stepping down in 2002.

“He comes totally out of the blue,” said Carlo Rognoni, an RAI board member belonging to the center-left opposition.

“There has been no political discussion on this candidate, so we are bound to vote against him on principle,” he added.

Monorchio needs two-thirds of the vote from the parliamentary commission that oversees the pubcaster to be installed as prexy. The vote is expected in coming days.

Monorchio’s designation by the treasury comes after a year of bitter bickering over the makeup of RAI’s board and will not be the saga’s final act if he fails to win Parliament’s approval.

Former RAI prexy Lucia Annunziata stepped down in May 2004, claiming that Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi wielded direct influence over the pubcaster’s management. Berlusconi controls Mediaset, RAI’s main rival.

Earlier this month, Parliament appointed most of RAI’s new nine-member board, except for its prexy and general director, which remains to be designated.

Tuesday was the last workday for the pubcaster’s outgoing board — including former general director Flavio Cattaneo — which approved RAI’s budget for fiscal 2004, a period that showed a healthy operating profit of E113 million ($139.5 million).

RAI has come under fire lately for cost-cutting that caused it to lose a bidding war with Rupert Murdoch’s Sky Italia for the complete rights to the World Cup 2006 — opting instead for a smaller 25-match nonexclusive package — and for losing top-rated gameshow host Paolo Bonolis to Mediaset.

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