Italian state b'caster RAI goes on defensive

Says Mediaset benefits from its spending

ROME -- Italian state broadcaster RAI on Monday made the case that it should be left to its own devices despite the change of government, pointing out that it spends nearly two-thirds of its revenue to acquire content and that Mediaset subsidiary Endemol is among its most important content providers.

Every time a new government takes power in Italy, it has the right to change some of the leadership of RAI. That has rarely been as true as during the previous stints in power for media tycoon Silvio Berlusconi, who was sworn in Friday for his fourth nonconsecutive term as prime minister.

On Monday, RAI went on the offensive, arguing that the country as a whole benefits from strong public television, that the broadcaster is an aggressive buyer of programming and that, through Endemol, Mediaset indirectly benefited from RAI's spending habits, which include spending 2.1 billion euros ($3.3 billion) of its 3.1 billion euros ($4.9 billion) budget on programming.

So far, Berlusconi has given little indication of his plans for RAI, which -- like Berlusconi's Mediaset -- operates three of the country's seven national broadcast networks. Combined, the two companies control 92% of Italian viewer hours.