Parliament seeks reprieve for Italian soap

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ROME -- The Italian parliament on Tuesday issued a statement calling on state broadcaster RAI to keep long-running Italian-made soap opera "Incantesimo" on the air.

Though RAI has not officially said it will cancel the popular program, the 11th season should start screening in September, and plans have not yet been released. Local newspapers have been carrying stories speculating that the program could be cut and replaced with a foreign import as a cost-saving measure.

The program reportedly costs about €100,000 ($138,000) per episode.

When contacted, a RAI spokesman would say only that the broadcaster was working to complete the series' 10th season and that no decision had been made about the future.

Though the brief statement from parliament is in no way binding, it is significant because it has support from both sides of the political aisle and because it so rare for legislators to weigh in on the fate of a television program.

Most of parliament's concerns stem from the fact that it's a popular Italian-made program and that its cancellation would lead to several hundred job losses.

Parliamentarians are not the only ones alarmed at the program's possible cancellation. Small groups of protesters have picketed RAI's Rome headquarters in recent days, and several newspaper editorials have come out in support of "Incantesimo," which features a story line about a series of love affairs among a group of doctors.

Television critics, however, have panned the program over the years as "formulaic" and "melodramatic."

Up until the end of last year, "Incantesimo" aired in primetime and was one of RAI's most popular programs. But in January, RAI switched the program to a daytime slot to battle against "Vivere" (Live) from rival Mediaset and the program has struggled since.
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