Italy unveils RAI reforms

Political influence to be cut

ROME — RAI, the Italo pubcaster where pols of all stripes have long been known to wield a highly anomalous degree of influence, will get a management structure makeover designed to finally make the country’s top web more autonomous.

Italy’s center-left government has passed a RAI reform bill under which an 11-member foundation modeled on the BBC Trust will be set up as RAI’s holding company.

Four members of the foundation will still be tapped by parliament, while two will be chosen by regional entities, and the remainder named by totally non-political orgs.

In turn, the foundation will appoint a five-member RAI board that will oversee the mammoth broadcaster’s day-to-day operative management.

The law decree still requires final parliamentary approval to go into effect, though this is considered a formality.

“RAI during the first 40-50 years of its life had a symbiotic relationship with politics that in more recent years became absolutely lethal,” said communications minister Paolo Gentiloni announcing the new legislation.

Ever since 1954, when RAI first aired, governing parties have controlled the pubcaster, each pushing to place sympathetic journalists, anchormen or producers in its three channels or, conversely, to oust those who didn’t toe their line.

Silvio Berlusconi in 2002 famously ordered RAI execs to muzzle venerated veteran journo Enzo Biagi, who is considered Italy’s Walter Cronkite. They obliged.

Former communications minister Maurizio Gasparri, who was in power at the time, has blasted the new RAI law as “baroque.”

The pubcaster’s current seven-member board, appointed by parliament during Berlusconi’s tenure, has been at loggerheads lately, deadlocked in an impasse due to political squabbling that has blocked all decision-making at RAI for the past two months.

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