Italy cracks down on gossip in media

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ROME -- An Italian circuit court ruled Friday that reporting gossip in Italy will be illegal unless it helps make a larger point about the figure in question.

The case is part of a wider effort to improve standards on Italian television. State broadcaster RAI said this year that it would stop airing reality programming when current contracts run out, and the company also announced plans to remove advertising from one of its three networks by the end of 2009 in order to allow it to broadcast more cultural programs without consideration for economic factors.

Upon announcing the ruling, the Rome court said it would "remove gossip that exists only for gossip's sake." But critics said it will have little impact on content producers adept at framing reporting so that it can take on an unexpected context.

The most significant aspect may be that it gives prosecutors ammunition for attacking problematic programs that are guilty of breaking only the anti-gossip rules.

"Everyone will abuse the gossip rules, but now those who do will risk being sanctioned," said one television producer quoted by news agency ANSA. "The rules cannot be enforced universally but some will have to worry about their rivals using the rules against them."

The rules apply to television, print and radio media.
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