There will be no news in Italy today; or, at least, hardly any. That is not a prediction, but fact: none of the main newspapers are appearing because their reporters and editors are on a 24-hour strike. Today they are due to be joined by radio, TV and some internet journalists. The action is over a parliamentary bill proposing a law that Silvio Berlusconi’s government claims safeguards privacy. Most of Italy’s editors, judges and prosecutors say it is intended to shield politicians, and particularly the prime minister, whose career has been ridden with financial and sexual scandals. The so-called “gagging law” would curb the ability of police and prosecutors to record phone conversations and plant listening devices. It would also stop journalists publishing the resulting transcripts. Investigators seeking to listen in on a suspect would need permission from three judges. Regardless of circumstances, eavesdropping warrants would expire after 75 days, after which they must be renewed every three days. The media would only be able to publish a summary of the findings of an investigation after it had ended.
One of Italy’s top news readers has dramatically quit her job on state-funded television after claiming its coverage was biased in favour of the media mogul and premier, Silvio Berlusconi. Maria Luisa Busi, who presented the flagship evening TG1 news show on the Rai 1 channel, reportedly told bosses what she thought of the programme’s editorial line in a frank letter pinned to a notice board. Her abrupt departure at the weekend follows a series of clashes with TG1 editor Augusto Minzolini, who was hand-picked for the job by Mr Berlusconi. TG1’s editorial committee expressed unease “about the direction Augusto Minzolini has made TG1 take”. The veteran journalist and Rai president, Paolo Garimberti, added: “Maria Luisa Busi’s decision is another worrying signal of a situation that requires maximum attention from the company’s top management.” In addition to controlling three of Italy’s seven terrestrial TV channels as part of his Mediaset empire, Mr Berlusconi, as prime minister, exercises considerable influence on senior appointments at the state-owned, rival broadcaster, Rai. And it was to address what he felt was left-wing bias that Mr Berlusconi pushed for Mr Minzolini’s appointment last year. Since then, accusations of pro-government bias against Mr Minzolini have emerged
Italian PM placed under investigation by magistrates after wiretap
Silvio Berlusconi has been placed under investigation by Italian magistrates on suspicion of pressuring Italy’s media watchdog to block transmission of a state television talk show he considered hostile, it was reported on Monday. The announcement, by the news service Ansa, came as figures released by the Italian parliament revealed that the prime minister’s income, partly derived from private TV channels, had shot up to €23m (£21m) last year from €14.5m in 2008. The investigation was prompted by wiretaps, which allegedly reveal Berlusconi urging Giancarlo Innocenzi, a senior member of a parliament-appointed watchdog, to “shut down” the show, Annozero, broadcast on Italy’s state RAI network. RAI has suspended all political talk shows, including Annozero, before the regional elections this month, ostensibly to guarantee balance. Innocenzi, a former journalist at Berlusconi’s Mediaset network, is under investigation for denying to magistrates that he was pressured by Berlusconi. After the leaked wiretaps were published on Friday, the justice minister, Angelino Alfano, said he would send inspectors to quiz the magistrates handling the inquiry to discover if they were justified in bugging the prime minister, and how the transcripts were leaked.
Three Google executives were convicted of violating Italian privacy laws on Wednesday, the first case to hold the company’s executives criminally responsible for the content posted on its system. The verdict, though subject to appeal, could have sweeping implications worldwide for Internet freedom: It suggests that Google is not simply a tool for its users, as it contends, but is effectively no different from any other media company, like newspapers or television, that provides content and could be regulated. The ruling further complicates the business environment for Google in Europe, where it faces a wave of antitrust complaints. The Italian move to hold the company or its executives responsible for text, photographs or videos made available by third parties through Google and its online services, like YouTube, poses a significant challenge to the company’s business model, along with those of other Internet companies like Facebook and Twitter. In Italy, where Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi owns most private media and indirectly controls public media, there is a strong push to regulate the Internet more assertively than it is controlled elsewhere in Europe. Several measures are pending in Parliament that seek to impose various controls on the Internet. Critics of Mr. Berlusconi say the measures go beyond routine copyright questions and are a way to stave off competition from the Web to public television stations and his own private channels – and to keep a tighter grip on public debate
Silvio Berlusconi’s supporters in the Italian parliament Wednesday night outraged opposition MPs and journalists with a controversial clampdown on political talk shows ahead of next month’s regional elections. The ruling PDL Party’s majority on the parliamentary watchdog that oversees public broadcaster RAI forced through rules that mean the state broadcaster’s most popular talk shows will have to scrap their political content – or face a transfer from mid-evening to graveyard shifts. Programmes such as Ballarò and Annozero, which have frequently held Mr Berlusconi to account for alleged sex scandals and even Mafia links, will be the main victims of the month-long clamp down that prompted accusations of censorship. Political content will be allowed – but only if all 30 or so parties standing in the elections are represented on every show, which programme-makers said would make their formats unworkable. The rules will apply from 28 February until 28 March, when the country’s regional elections are held. The Prime Minister, whose Mediaset empire owns three of the six principal Italian terrestrial TV channels – some of which have been censured for pro-government bias – has often complained that RAI shows attack him unfairly. But Fabrizio Morri of the opposition Democratic Party said the ruling centre-right coalition had “voted for the suppression of journalistic analysis”.
Internet companies and civil liberty groups have voiced alarm over a proposed Italian law which would make online service providers responsible for their audiovisual content and copyright infringements by users. The draft, due to be approved next month, would make Internet Service Providers (ISPs) like Fastweb and Telecom Italia, and websites like Google’s YouTube, responsible for monitoring TV content on their pages, industry experts say. It comes as Google’s YouTube unit is engaged in a legal battle with Mediaset, controlled by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. Italy’s largest media group wants EUR 500m in damages from YouTube for copyright infringement. The proposed regulations would make Internet sites as liable as television stations for their content and subject to hefty fines by the AGCOM media watchdog, according to a 33-page draft. Italy’s parliament, which is holding consultations with civil groups and Internet associations, is due to present a non-binding opinion to Silvio Berlusconi’s government by early February. Raffaele Nardacchione, director of the Asstel association of telecommunications providers which represents ISPs like Fastweb and Tiscali, said the decree far exceeded the terms of the original European directive by extending the definition of audiovisual media to Internet firms and by tightening copyright.The draft decree only requires presidential approval. EU sources told Reuters Tuesday that the Commission could open an investigation into the decree for infringing EU norms.
In a blatant attempt to insert themselves into Silvio Berlusconi’s nether regions his right wing halfwit fans who hold high public office have decided to call the Internet social networking site Facebook to public account for allowing an anti-Berlusconi group to celebrate the recent attack on Italy’s ageing and rather repugnant lothario PM.
The popular Internet social networking site, Facebook, is seeking a meeting with Italian senate speaker Renato Schifani to discuss the controversy over the site that arose after the attack on the prime minister Silvio Berlusconi. Director of European public policy for Facebook, Richard Allan, has sent a letter to Schifani requesting a meeting after he accused Facebook of an “instigation to violence” after the attack. On Thursday, Schifani which holds the country’s second highest office said that Facebook is more dangerous than the terrorist groups of the 1970s. The Berlusconi attack created a fierce debate among thousands of supporters and opponents on the social networking site Facebook and the government has blamed it for being a factor in the attack against the premier. After the attack on Berlusconi on Sunday, Italy’s interior minister Roberto Maroni signalled tighter legislative measures to control Internet sites in a bid to reduce what it says is a “climate of violence” that caused Sunday’s attack. The attack on Berlusconi occurred only a week after several hundred thousand people took to the streets of Rome for a protest entitled “No Berlusconi Day”. It was largely organised mainly online through internet social networks
Spain’s main private sector media groups Thursday confirmed they were in talks on two separate tie-ups with at least one of the deals imminent. Antena 3 and La Sexta, television stations controlled by Barcelona-based media groups, are nearing a merger agreement, according to several people close to the talks. If it goes ahead, a combination could create Spain’s largest broadcaster by market share, with about 22 per cent of the audience. But a mooted separate deal involving Telecinco, owned by Silvio Berlusconi’s Mediaset group, and the TV interests of the Prisa media group, would top this with an audience share of about 25 per cent. Antena 3 denied reports that it had signed a memorandum of understanding with La Sexta, but it said in a regulatory filing Thursday it had “been in talks with various operators in the sector – including La Sexta – to explore possible ways of integrating audiovisual businesses”. Industry talks have intensified this year as companies grapple with a sharp downturn in advertising revenues. Madrid this year modified legislation covering the sector to facilitate consolidation, although it set a ceiling of 30 per cent market share. Bankers say the move by advertisers to the internet and other new media formats was forcing a strategic rethink at newspaper, radio, and TV groups. Consolidation has been spurred by the imminent move to digital terrestrial television. DTT will widen the scope for free-to-air broadcasters to launch multiple pay-TV services.
Pictures showed Mr Berlusconi, 73, with a badly cut lip and blood on his cheek and chin. A man has been arrested. The prime minister, looking dazed, was helped to his feet by aides and put in a car. He got out and tried to climb on the car to show he was all right. Reports suggested he had either been punched or hit with an object.
He was taken to a hospital in Milan after the attack. The Italian news agency Ansa said he was to stay under observation for 24 hours, but there was no immediate report on the extent of his injuries.
Mr Berlusconi had been greeting supporters in a square in Milan when the assault took place. According to Italian newspaper, Corriere della Sera, a small group of protesters were shouting slogans and whistling during the rally. There were reported to have been scuffles between the hecklers and security staff. During the gathering he told supporters: “They paint me as a monster, but I don’t think I am one – firstly because I am good-looking and secondly because I’m a decent chap”. Mr Berlusconi has been under pressure in recent months.
His private life has been in the spotlight, amid allegations that he slept with prostitutes, and after his wife filed for divorce. He has dismissed accusations of ties to the Mafia, and criminal cases against him have resumed after a law giving him immunity was overturned. A week ago tens of thousands of people attended an anti-Berlusconi rally in Rome
PS – this Youtube clip about this man’s attitudes towards women may well explain why
The beleaguered Italian Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, has ordered a special propaganda unit to “bombard” the foreign press with good news in an attempt to stem the tide of critical headlines overseas. The media mogul has been infuriated by international coverage of the sex scandals that have beset him. He seems unable to understand that calling a German MEP a ‘concentration camp guard’ or indulging in swinging sex parties at his villa is anybody else’s business but his own.
The Tourism Minister, Michela Vittoria Brambilla, announced yesterday that a group of “young journalists and communications experts” would “monitor all the foreign press, dailies, periodicals and TV, in every latitude from Japan to Peru” and “bombard it with accurate and positive news”. I, for one, await the bombardment of the foreign press with positive news. A secret recipe for the best pizza ever? The arrest of the Mafia Godfathers and the secuestration of their millions – all then redistributed to the Sicilian poor? Infrastructure construction contracts in the south o he country that are on time, on budget and cutting edge in design and innovation? Sophia Loren brought out of retirement to amuse and titilate the over 50’s as she reminisces about her love affairs with big Hollywood stars of yester year? Or perhaps he’ll reveal his true colours and we’ll see a blast from the past with men in Brown shirts beating up socialists and lefties force feeding them castor oil and bold announcements about the trains running on time and Italia Irrendta? What will these be?
“The unit will be ready by the end of the month. There’s no time to lose,” she told Corriere della Sera newspaper. “There’s an anti-Italian alliance in this country working against Italy, with the unique aim of discrediting and destroying the Prime Minister.”
Not that there needs to be as he is so good at destroying his own credibility all by himself.
Giovanna Melandri, from the opposition Democratic Party, said: “Not content with controlling most of the Italian media [Mr Berlusconi] now wants to run the foreign press, too.”