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Italian government accused of 'relentless influence' on public service

May 24, 2023

Rome [Italy], May 24: Sources from the Italian state television Rai accused the right-wing government of Giorgio Meloni of wanting to subjugate the public service to its will and "erase the traces of Italian anti-fascism", after a series of resignations and political pressure on journalists.
"With every change of government, there is a change in management at Rai. The only difference now is that it is more ruthless, while before it was maybe a little more, let's say, gentlemanly," said a source from the public broadcaster.
CEO Carlo Fuortes resigned this month, citing government pressure, and left-leaning host Fabio Fazio and his colleague Luciana Liticeto, a comedian known for criticizing conservatives, left Rai after they failed to renew their contracts for the popular show Che Tempo Che Fa. More resignations are expected in the coming months, the Guardian reports.
Fuortes, who was appointed by the previous government of Mario Draghi, was quickly replaced at the suggestion of the new government by Roberto Sergio, a manager whose political views change according to who is in power, the source claims.
Giampaolo Rossi, a former member of the board of directors supported by the Brothers of Italy party of Giorgio Meloni, was appointed as general director.
Rossi is known for his controversial tweets and support for Russian President Vladimir Putin, former US President Donald Trump and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban. In an interview in 2019, he stated that "anti-fascism is a caricature of the past".
"Rai has always been under the influence of the authorities, but with the current one there has been a quantum leap. They want to take control of Rai and adapt the narrative to their way of thinking and erase the traces of our country's anti-fascism. This will mean weakening Rai and the public service," said a source familiar with the situation.
The pressure on Fuortes began days before the September election, after the French philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy criticized Italy's right-wing parties in a program on Rai 3.
The League party demanded that Fuortes be fired, and the Brothers of Italy filed a complaint with the communications watchdog.
Fuortes stated in his resignation letter that he refuses to accept changes in editorial policy and program.
Meloni's government was particularly criticized for allegedly pressuring Fuortes to resign before the end of his term.
The opposition accused Matteo Salvini, deputy prime minister and leader of the League, of being "authoritarian" for celebrating the departure of Fazio and Liticetta.
Fazio, who has interviewed Mikhail Gorbachev, Barack Obama and Emmanuel Macron during his 40 years of work at Rai, said that the government thinks that by winning the elections it has gained legitimacy to "behave as the owner of the public sphere without regard for the public and with boundless greed". .
"They're going to work to put their people in director positions. So we're probably going to start seeing more influence on programming. They're going to try to minimize the left-wing narrative and influence popular programming," said a former board member.
The director of the journalism school at the University of Rome Luis Gianni Riota said that there has always been political influence, but that there is a line that the government should try not to cross.
"Rai should not be homogenous, we need a public service that provides different opinions," said Riota.
The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) also condemned the "political takeover" of Rai, which "seriously undermines the independence of the public broadcaster".
"The state media is based on two pillars, autonomy and independence. At the moment we see that in Italy these two pillars are cracked and no longer guaranteed. With this change at the top, we have another proof that the Italian government can control the public service and influence the law citizens to be informed," said EFJ General Secretary Ricardo Gutierrez.
Source: Beta News Agency