Italy: Far-right executive takes control of public broadcaster RAI

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Source/Author: EFJ

A new CEO, Roberto Sergio, has been appointed at the Italian public broadcaster RAI on 15 May 2022, following the resignation of Carlo Fuortes and various political pressure on journalists. The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) joins its Italian affiliates, the FNSI and USIGRai, in denouncing a political takeover of RAI, which seriously endangers the public broadcaster’s independence.

On Monday 8 May, the head of Italy’s public broadcasting group RAI, Carlo Fuortes, appointed by the previous government of Prime Minister Mario Draghi, announced his resignation. Fuortes justified his departure by saying that he was being pressured by his supervisory authorities. In a letter to the Italian Ministry of Economy and Finance, the former head of RAI said he refused to accept changes to the editorial line and programming that the Italian Prime Minister’s government, lead by Giorgia Meloni and Fratelli d’Italia, is trying to impose.

On Monday 15 May, the RAI Shareholders’ Meeting formalised the designation of Roberto Sergio as a new member of the RAI Board of Directors, indicating him for the position of Chief Executive Officer. During the meeting, the new CEO communicated his intention to entrust Giampaolo Rossi with the role of Corporate General Manager and Paola Marchesini with the role of Staff director Chief Executive Officer. Rossi is well known for his conspiratorial ideas, which he disseminated on a blog hosted by the right-wing daily Il Giornale.

Another recent case of resignation involved Italian journalist Fabio Fazio, who declared that the last episode of his long-running and historical programme Che Tempo Che Fa (Rai 2) will be broadcast at the end of May. Fazio announced an agreement with another TV channel, following the numerous criticisms he received for his program, and after various political pressure from the government, which never appreciated the progressive editorial line of the TV show.

The RAI journalists’ union USIGRai sees this move as “a sign of occupation of the public service” by the far-right government of Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni.

“These acts do not go in the direction desired by those who have long been calling not for a rebalancing, but for true independence of the RAI, which must be at the service of all citizens with every government and not with alternating majorities,” said FNSI President, Vittorio di Trapani. “The weakening of the Italian public enterprises gives the opportunity to another media giant, Mediaset, owned by leader of Forza Italia Silvio Berlusconi, the chance to have much more prestige,” he added. 

According to the 2021 Media Pluralism Monitor’s annual report on Italy, the independence of public service media governance and public funding is at high-risk, highlighting a need for substantial reform of RAI.

Since the election of the new government in 2022, discussions have emerged regarding the approach to assume authority over the Italian public broadcasting service. Meloni’s present administration has taken a more decisive step based on 2016 Renzi’s reform, which already granted the government the appointment of the board of RAI.

“Public service media is based on two pillars, autonomy and independence. Currently, we can see that in Italy, these two pillars are cracked and are 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 citizens’ right to be informed,” reacted EFJ General Secretary Ricardo Gutiérrez.

This statement by EFJ is part of the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR), a Europe-wide mechanism which tracks, monitors and responds to violations of press and media freedom in EU Member States and Candidate Countries.