Italy TV head loses battle to scrap reality shows
Thursday, April 5th, 2007

The president of Italian state broadcaster RAI has lost his uphill battle to scrap highly popular reality TV shows he considers base and degrading from its channels, at least for now. Claudio Petruccioli had recommended RAI drop the programmes from next year, saying they “put people into environments that are both unrealistic and coercive, leading inevitably to unreasonable if not degrading behaviour”. He also said such shows ran counter to RAI’s mandate to be a “public service broadcaster”.

But the board of RAI approved late yesterday the screening of the new edition of L’Isola dei Famosi (Celebrity Island), which features a dozen would-be VIPs fending for themselves on a secluded island. The show, one of the most popular in Italy along with Il Grande Fratello (Big Brother) - broadcast by RAI’s private rival Mediaset - came under attack last year when one of the contestants cursed live on TV.

RAI and Mediaset were fined 100,000 euros each in December for blasphemous language and swearing in the two shows, which despite lower ratings in this year’s editions still command huge audiences and big advertising money. RAI, for which Italians pay an unpopular annual licence fee, is widely criticised for increasingly relying on the kind of populist programmes that dominate Mediaset, which is funded only by advertising and is controlled by former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Petruccioli had justified his proposal to take reality shows off RAI’s three channels by saying the money saved from commissioning them would be invested in making more cultural programmes and films. But several RAI board members were wary of losing a money-spinner like L’Isola dei Famosi, which costs RAI nearly 8 million euros but last year reaped 15 million euros in advertising revenues, to a commercial rival.

The show’s producers had said this week they would knock on Mediaset’s door if RAI did not quickly sign up for the new edition, to be screened this fall. RAI’s board asked the producers to pay more attention to the choice of the contestants to avoid embarrassing incidents. ”Petruccioli’s words must be taken seriously,” board member Nino Rizzo Nervo said. “Now we have all the time to understand which reality shows, if any, we want to have in 2008″.

(Source: Reuters)