Italian Government Gets Political Mandate to Overhaul RAI

Italy state broadcaster losing money and searching for answers amid stiff competition from Mediaset and Sky-Italia.


ROME – Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti on Friday received the political backing he needed to launch a wholesale reform of state broadcaster RAI.

Though the government did not list specific changes it wanted to make to the troubled state-run company, officials have said in recent days that nothing would be off the table, including new forms of revenue for the company, a reduction of services, cuts in staff, and possibly selling off assets that could even include one of RAI’s three national television networks.

Already, RAI has had to close its New York offices, and the domestic media has reported that the death or scaling back of RAI International, the company’s main offering beyond Italy’s borders, could be in the works. RAI employees have threatened to strike while the company remains mired it debt, with losses totaling more than €200 million ($261 million) last year.

Despite its problems, RAI remains a significant player in the Italian television market, along with Silvio Berlusconi’s broadcast giant Mediaset and News Corp. subsidiary Sky-Italia.

With the support from parties on both sides of the political spectrum, Monti has the mandate he needs for significant changes.

Also on Friday, RAI approved its 2012 game plan for in-house productions, focusing mostly on lower-cost sequels. It will also rely on acquisitions from other producers, the company said in a statement.