Founded in 1944 but dating back to the Twenties, the Italian State TV controls various TV channels and radio stations. Before the creation of Mr Berlusconi’s media empire, it had a virtual monopoly of TV and radio information.
As a further advantage against competitors, it is exempt from the application of antitrust norms, which have given many headaches to Mr Berlusconi, and is financed by a special tax on TVs while also airing commercials.
To avoid it becoming a formidable propaganda tool for the Government, a sizable space in its management is left to the opposition. Its third TV channel, for example, was traditionally a stronghold of the Italian Communist Party. The formula of an independent authority was not conceivable when the State TV was first regulated, and when it became available the old regime had became too entrenched. Such regime is based on careers determined by political allegiance and patronage rather than merit.
Moreover, the political orientation of the State TV led to episodes of de facto censorship, with people disliked by the establishment exiled even if they had a good relationship with the public and the sponsors.
Prime Minister Matteo Renzi announced that it is going to drastically reform the State TV, even by decree if necessary.
The announcement came in the framework of an event about instruction and culture, and Mr Renzi emphasized the cultural rather than commercial role of the State TV. This could mean that he is willing to tackle yet another issue, id est the lowering of quality standards – which used once to be very high – to counter the aggressive competition of Mr Berlusconi’s private channels, focused on entertainment rather than culture.
Indeed if you watch some of the channels of the Italian State TV – but not all of them, the news channel for example has higher standards – you won’t see substantial differences in comparison to a private commercial channel, with light shows, soap operas and the scantly clad girls who are typical of Italian television.