RAI drops programming 'quality seal'

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ROME -- Italian state broadcaster RAI has abandoned its year-old plans to include a "quality seal" on programming that met certain standards of quality, with a spokesman saying Tuesday that it was too difficult to objectively determine what constituted serious programming.

The plan to include the seal on programming was included in RAI's contract for the 2006-07 television season, and the seal did appear on some programs -- mostly cultural and fiction programming financed by state money rather than by advertisers. But the initiative never caught on.

"In the end, it was too hard to objectively determine which productions represented quality programming," the spokesman said in a telephone interview.

The spokesman said RAI did not rule out developing a more narrowly focused labeling initiative, like one that would identify cultural programs or programs based on classic literature.

The move to drop the seal was criticized in some circles. Some Italian media outlets said it was necessary to identify programming paid for by RAI subscription fees -- obligatory payments made by all Italian residents who own a television -- or tax money. The "quality seal" satisfied that requirement.

It is not clear whether RAI will take other steps to clearly identify programs paid for by public funds.

The development of the plan for the seal is part of a broader effort from RAI to raise the quality of its programming. The broadcaster said this year that it would drop what it said was "low-brow" programming like reality shows by the start of 2008. And last year a media sector reform said RAI would ban ads on two of RAI's three national networks in 2009 as a way of freeing them from commercial concerns.
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