End of reality for Italy's RAI

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ROME -- Italian state broadcaster RAI will stop producing reality programs immediately and will suspend the broadcast of them by May, company president Cladio Petruccioli said Thursday.

The decision to suspend reality programming is part of RAI's wider effort to improve the quality of its programming. In the past several months, the state-owned company has unveiled a plan to remove advertising from one of its three networks as a way to free it from commercial concerns. Network executives also have taken steps to include more cultural offerings on RAI networks, especially RAI 3.

Though the statement from Petruccioli was not a surprise, it did anger some RAI directors who said he should have waited until RAI's upcoming schedule was released next week. But nobody denied that the move away from reality TV was in the works for RAI.

RAI's lack of interest in reality programming stands in stark contrast to the broadcast philosophy of rival Mediaset, controlled by media tycoon Silvio Berlusconi. Mediaset's three private networks serve a steady diet of reality shows, and the company has been linked in recent weeks to negotiations to acquire control of Dutch producer Endemol, creator of the highly successful "Big Brother" television franchise.
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