Watchdog org fines RAI

Communications Authority kicks out Meocci

ROME — Italy’s media watchdog, the Communications Authority, has fined pubcaster RAI e14.3 million ($17.9 million) for appointing a topper who once sat on the authority’s board — a conflict of interest that made him ineligible for the job.

The Silvio Berlusconi-led government, which appointed Alfredo Meocci in August, had dismissed this incompatibility.

It’s the first sign of a change of stance under the new government: The watchdog’s ruling came just as Italy’s new parliament assembled for the first time since the center-left coalition headed by Romano Prodi beat Berlusconi’s conservative bloc by a razor-thin margin.

As always, a new government will bring changes in RAI’s executive suites, where many of the posts are government appointments. But a radical reshuffle is not expected due to the coalition’s weak majority.

Meocci, a former RAI anchorman who sat on the Communications Authority’s board between 1998 and 2005, said he will appeal the watchdog’s decision and a fine of $468,000 slapped on him personally.

The RAI topper is expected to ankle during a RAI board meeting scheduled Tuesday.

“RAI now effectively has nobody at the helm,” said RAI board member Gennaro Malgieri. “Who knows how long we’ll have to wait before this power vacuum is filled.”

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