ROME — RAI Corp., the North American arm of Italian pubcaster RAI, will shutter in April due to budget cuts, which are also threatening its other global offshoots.
RAI’s board has voted unanimously to close its studios in New York’s Tribeca district, where TV and radio reports are produced; 66 employees have been pink-slipped, and talks are reportedly underway with the Associated Press to use its TV services instead.
RAI Intl., which distributes RAI content worldwide, and RAI Med, which airs to the Arab world are also under threat.
The pubcaster has more than 13,000 staffers and debts of some €200 million ($270 million). It is pushing through the cuts as part of austerity measures dictated by prime minister Mario Monti.
RAI Corp. is first on the list because it’s incorporated in the U.S. where labor laws make it easier to lay off staffers than in Italy.
RAI Corp. employees who, besides news, also produce cultural content for Italians living abroad, are disputing this and taking legal action against the RAI board, whose mandate expires in May.
The cuts come as RAI is under fire in Italy for agreeing to pay local rockstar Adriano Celentano a whopping $461,000 for a single appearance on the top-rated “Sanremo Song Fest.” Celentano has justified the exorbitant amount by saying he will give it all to charity.