Mediaset Under Fire for Plans to Screen Oscar-Nominated 'The Great Beauty' on TV

The broadcaster will be ignoring an unwritten rule prohibiting airing films on Italian TV within 24 months of their theatrical release.

ROME – Mediaset’s Channel 5 will put the finishing touches on its Oscars coverage Sunday by screening Paolo Sorrentino’s The Great Beauty (La grande bellezza), but the broadcaster is facing scrutiny for its decision to show the film on the small screen little more than nine months after it opened in cinemas.

The screening could be the first for The Great Beauty as an Oscar winner -- the film is nominated for a foreign language film Academy Award. It is the first Italian nominee since 2006 and could be the first Italian winner since Roberto Benigni’s Life Is Beautiful (La vita e’ bella) took home three Oscars in 1998.

The controversy comes from an unwritten rule in Italy that television broadcasters hold off on showing a film on the small screen within the first two years after its cinematic release. The Great Beauty premiered last year at the Cannes Film Festival and in Italian cinemas on the same day: May 21, barely nine months before it will show on Mediaset’s Channel 5.

Lionello Cerri, president of the Italian Association of Cinema Exhibitors, criticized Mediaset’s decision and said it risked “distorting” the long-held rule designed to help prevent television screenings from cannibalizing cinema ticket sales.

Mediaset is controlled by former prime minister and billionaire media tycoon Silvio Berlusconi.

Twitter: @EricJLyman