Italy Populist Politician Beppe Grillo Compares Italy to 'The Truman Show'

9:47 AM PST 04/10/2013 by Eric J. Lyman
Beppe Grillo

Grillo, one of the three main figures in Italy's political impasse, has vowed to dramatically reform state broadcaster RAI.

ROME -- Beppe Grillo, Italy’s standup comic turned populist leader whose entry into the political arena helped spark Italy’s protracted government stalemate, compared Italian media to The Truman Show, and said he would use his newfound political muscle to push for sweeping reforms of state broadcaster RAI.

The Five-Star political movement Grillo founded emerged from Italy’s Feb. 24-25 national elections as the country’s largest single party, upsetting the balance of power and preventing either Pier Luigi Bersani from the center-left or center-right leader Silvio Berlusconi, a billionaire media tycoon and three-time prime minister, from earning enough votes to form a government.

Negotiations between the three blocs have now into their seventh week. But even with no end in sight, some of the candidates have already started to plans to starting governing: Berlusconi said Monday he would start drafting legislation, starting next week. And Grillo now says he will push hard to reform RAI, the cash-strapped state broadcaster.

Grillo’s political success has come from arguing traditional political parties are corrupt and hold too much influence. In his popular blog this week, Grillo said he was asked why the same political system that has “reduced Italy to the status of a co-star in Europe and delivered future generations into poverty” still attracted around three of four votes in the last election.

“The answer is that part of the Italian population is living in a gigantic The Truman Show,” Grillo said, referring to Peter Weir’s 1998 comedy about a man who discovers his life is a hit television show. “The responsibility for this is completely due to Italian journalists … [in an] outright war against reality, a war of mystification, of illusions, in which lies are spat out by news media every day.”

Regarding RAI, Grillo noted that fewer than 50 of the company's more than 13,000 employees -- 0.37 percent of the total -- are under the age of 30. He said the company, which runs three national television networks, radio networks and a film and television content production arm, is run by entrenched officials who got their jobs because of connections and who remain beholden to political power brokers.

“RAI has to be reorganized and transformed into a true public service on the model of the BBC,” he said, adding that his forces in parliament would push to consolidate RAI into a single network with no advertising and no connection to political parties. The other two networks would be sold off to help pay down state debt, Grillo said.

Making another film reference, this time to the famous 1999 thriller directed by Andy and Lana Wachowski, Grillo said, “Freedom of information is fundamental for the future of the country and as a pathway to escape from The Matrix.”

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