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Italy11 October 2002

Broadcast making fun of Berlusconi is censored

Reporters Without Borders today deplored the banning by the state-owned RAI broadcasting network of a special edition of the satirical programme "Blob" focusing on Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi and said it was a deliberate attempt to bring the state-owned TV station to heel.

"Banning a quality satirical programme such as Blob because it criticises the prime minister too often is censorship plain and simple," said Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard in a letter to RAI 3 director-general Agostino Saccà. "This episode further tarnishes the image of Italy, which is already the only country in the European Union where media diversity is under threat.

"We urge you to reverse this decision and allow the programme to be broadcast," he said.

Saccà refused to allow the third in a Blob series on Berlusconi to go out, saying that four 40-minute broadcasts devoted to the prime minister in the space of a week was "perhaps a bit much." It was not censorship, he said, but "just a discussion" he had had with the head of RAI 3 director Paolo Ruffini.

The programme, called "Berlusconi Against Everyone" and due to be broadcast on 8 October, focused on the prime minister’s mannerisms during press conferences and major political broadcasts. The programme comprises a montage of existing film clips, shown without comment.

The chief editor of Blob, Enrico Ghezzi, said the RAI chiefs had not seen the programme before banning it. "It’s rather shocking to pre-censor a programme that is just made up of film clips that have already been broadcast," he said. "They acted as if they thought the pictures of Berlusconi were in themselves a criticism."

The political shows of opposition journalists Michele Santoro ("Sciuscià") and Enzo Biagi ("Il Fatto") were dropped earlier this year from RAI’s new programme schedule after Berlusconi had harshly criticised them.

Reporters Without Borders denounced this move against programmes that were especially critical of the government. It notes that the three RAI channels play a key role in maintaining broadcasting diversity in Italy while Berlusconi controls Mediaset, that runs the country’s three main privately-owned national TV stations.

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