Rockpolitik Rocks Berlusconi.
With the screening of “Rockpolitik” last Thursday night on RAI 1, one of the state run TV channels, a new paragraph was written in the political history of Italy. The show itself was interesting enough, being a mixture of music, comedy skits and political satire – very much the kind of TV programme that we are used to seeing in the rest of Europe – “That Was The Week That Was”, for example, back in the 1960s. What made this one so very different, and so very exciting to be watching, was that it challenged the control that has been exerted on virtually all of the Italian media by one man.
There has been much written and said about how that One Man, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, has gained control of the Italian media. Our Man of the Media himself would say (and does say) that he doesn’t actually exert any control over the editorial content of “his” television channels. The fact that he has been seen to flex his muscles several times in the past, sacking journalists that he hasn’t felt were being “fair” to him, couldn’t possibly be interpreted as control, could it.
It is this situation that makes Rockpolitik so important here. It is the journalists answer to Berlusconi, telling him that he can only gag and brainwash Italians so far. He has gone that far and people are now starting to answer him back. In fact, about 12 million people – ordinary Italian people – answered back by watching the show.
If this sounds like some kind of a revolution I am describing, I apologise for misleading you. It is simply a reassertion of the independence of journalism here in Italy. It is also a reassertion of the taste of Italians for intelligent TV – TV that encourages thinking and debate without the need for several gormless, scantily clad young bimbos gyrating and grinning everywhere you look. The Berlusconi TV formula has been crafted to be simply a "dressing up" of the advertising, which is, of course, the main object of the running of a TV station. At least, that is the commercial view of Mediaset, which has resulted in the most dire and “dumbed down” television programming that is possible to watch anywhere in Europe these days. With the appointment of our Media Man to the post of Prime Minister (still) the whole world of state run television opened up to him which his PR skill quickly developed as “his”.
So, getting back to the show itself for a moment, what happened? The show itself was presented and produced by Adriano Celentano, a very well-known Italian musician, actor and director who has been a leading member of the Italian performance arts scene since the 1960s. Without the support of the state owned and run TV station, of course, the programme couldn’t have been made or aired, so much credit must also go to the senior management that managed, somehow, not to know what was going on. At least, that is what the Forza Italia head of station, Fabrizio Del Noce, says.
Gerard Depardieu, now seemingly fully healed after his head inadvertently hit a photographer in Florence recently, chatted with Celentano and read a poem by Greek poet Costantino Kavafis, speaking excellent Italian I noticed. Obviously, his vineyards close to Sicily have helped enormously. There followed an item where Celentano showed the Freedom of the Press list published by an American non-profit organisation, Freedom House, which ranked Italy 77th alongside Bolivia and Mongolia for press freedom – reflecting the influence that Berlusconi has on the news which is reported in Italy.
There were a series of comedy parodies of prominent politicians of both sides and several set musical pieces where Celentano sung pretty well considering he is now 69. That was a satirical comment, by the way. There were some girls dancing – but they actually danced as opposed to merely gyrated their synthetic breasts in vague time with the music.
There was also a moving interview with Michele Santoro, one of the journalists that were banned from TV by Berlusconi in 2002 for speaking out against the politics and methods of our Man of the Media, Silvio. Santoro had been forced out of TV in a purge by Berlusconi which also included veteran broadcaster and journalist Enzo Biagi and satirist Daniele Luttazzi. The Prime Minister, in an outburst during an official visit to Bulgaria in April 2002, accused Santoro, Biagi and Luttazzi of having slashed his May 2001 election lead by making "criminal" use of state TV. Unfortunately for Berlusconi, the outburst was recorded and, even more unfortunately for Berlusconi, was shown by Celentano during his interview with Santoro.
Santoro has recently resigned from his post as a Member of the European Parliament, which he was elected to after his “sacking” by Berlusconi and will shortly be taking up the judgement awarded him by the Italian Courts whereby he was to be reinstated to his job by RAI at the end of his EU appointment. RAI is appealing the judgement, of course, so this will make for an interesting situation to follow.
Comments from various members of government have been fairly predictable so far. Communications Minister Mario Landolfi said that "there was too much politics, all in a Left direction, and not much rock - I'm glad I decided against increasing the RAI licence fee”. A nice show of power there, Mario. Fabrizio Cicchitto, deputy co-ordinator of Forza Italia, said "this is a very serious incident - A variety show was used as a vehicle by the most extreme and intolerant Left to insult their political adversaries on live TV. The question is; what has this sort of show got to do with the public service?". Forza Italia Deputy House Whip Isabella Bertolini argued that "Rockpolitik confirms that with this government total media freedom is protected - What went out was just a wave of insults against the premier". She obviously missed the rest of the show – or perhaps she actually missed the entire show, relying on more senior people to instruct her.
Well, whatever happens next, the show will go on. I don’t mean that Rockpolitik will necessarily go on for its remaining 3 scheduled programmes of course, I mean the entire Italian Media circus that passes itself off for government these days will continue to perform - for themselves.
Famiglia Berlusconi - it's a joke man, a joke!
Silvio Berlusconi has finally passed comment on Rockpolitik in the course of a TV interview tonight with TV journalist and presenter Bruno Vespa. Berlusconi rather predictably said the show was, "the latest example of a media system - which has systematically attacked the work of the government and the premier since 2001". Berlusconi continued by complaining that, "It's entertainment programmes above all, when they deal with social or political issues, that contain more criticism than appreciation of the government". Silvio. The art form you are trying to control is called "SATIRE". It has been an important part of the freedom of thought and speech which has been excercised by the people of Europe since time immemorial. As the largest publisher in Italy, I'm sure you have seen Punch magazine in your travels?