ROME — In a move likely to reshape Italy’s TV landscape, Italo pubcaster RAI is making public service a main component of its mission and upping investments in European movies and local product.
Under the new three-year contract inked by RAI with Italy’s communications ministry, the country’s top web has committed for the first time to making “cultural enrichment” one of the key indicators of its performance, the other one being, of course, ratings.
Thanks largely to efforts by recently appointed RAI deputy director Giancarlo Leone, who also heads its RAI Cinema unit, the three-channel web has earmarked Euros 80 million ($106 million) for local and European pics, and Euros 290 million ($385 million) for local TV product, mostly drama, an increase of 60% in both cases.
Additionally, RAI will be investing Euros 20 million ($26.5 million) to make local toons.
The significance of the pubcaster’s new mission goes well beyond a much-needed shot in the arm for the financially ailing Italian industry.
“The quality of programming will take precedence over competing in the ratings,” vowed Leone whose plans include less reality shows and trashy satire and having Roberto Benigni read from Dante’s “Divine Comedy” in primetime.
Since Silvio Berlusconi started commercial television in Italy in the 1980s, his Mediaset and RAI have been competing fiercely, going head-to-head in the ratings with audiences shares oscillating between 40-45% share each.
Local entertainment org AGIS hailed the move as “contributing to the cultural and civil growth of our country.”
Meanwhile in a clear sign RAI hasn’t gone totally “cultural,” the pubcaster on Thursday also inked an Euros 154 million ($204 million) four-year deal with national soccer league FIGC for rights to Italy’s world champion national soccer team.