With elections near, TG1, others warned

Italian communications watchdog Agcom fined the director of a major television newscast €100,000 ($143,511) this week for dramatically slanting coverage in favor of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Key elections are being held in cities around the country this weekend, and the results could determine whether Berlusconi is able to keep his shaky grip on political power. He’s been out in force to campaign for the candidates of his center-right party, and his image has been all- pervasive on the smallscreen.

Agcom said the TG1 newscast had violated the equal time provision for the first week of May with the elections nearing. And it warned in a statement that “all newscasts, for these last three days of the electoral campaign, must establish complete equilibrium between the political majority and the opposition, both in the amount of time they are given to speak and in the news, making up for the imbalance that has been witnessed in recent weeks.”

The ruling may be too little, too late. TG1 is part of national broadcaster RAI. Through his position as head of government, Berlusconi has oversight of RAI. At the same time he is the owner of the nation’s largest private broadcaster, Mediaset.

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