(Source: The Economist)
“SELDOM has an organisational chart prompted a defamation trial. Yet judges in Milan recently heard a case involving a colour-coded table published by Libero, a newspaper. The chart listed 900 executives of Italy’s public television and radio network, RAI, and the political parties to which they supposedly owed their appointment. Dismissing charges of libel, the judges said it was well known that, in RAI, “even the most meritorious individuals are favoured by their acquaintanceships in political circles”.
Italian commentators call RAI the “mirror of the nation”: an institution so permeated by competing interests that it sometimes anticipates political shifts even before they surface. Once, this was not unhealthy. Instead of being in thrall to the government of the day, RAI offered contrasting viewpoints. The Christian Democrats controlled the first television channel, the Socialists the second and, from 1979, the Communists a third. All three parties disintegrated in the 1990s, but the idea that politicians were entitled to meddle in RAI survived. The number of newsrooms grew to 11, as did a spirit of fierce internal rivalry.