Miss Italia Pageant Ends Months of Uncertainty With Pending Broadcast Deal

Courtesy of Saggese-La Malfa
Giusy Buscemi was crowned Miss Italia in 2012

The event, founded in 1939, had been carried by state broadcaster RAI for 25 consecutive years. But the relationship was scrapped in May.

ROME – Miss Italia, one of Europe’s oldest pageants, appears to have finally found a broadcaster for this year’s edition, in the longest period of uncertainty in the recent history of the storied event.

Aside from a four-year break during World War II, the pageant has been held every year since 1939. In Europe, only the national beauty pageants in France, Germany, and the U.K. predate it among major events.

VIDEO: Miss Venezuela's Awkward Answer at Miss Universe Pageant

Between 1979 and 1987, the event was broadcasted by the predecessors to Silvio Berlusconi’s Mediaset, and for the 25 editions starting in 1988 it was carried by RAI Uno, run by the state. But in a shakeup earlier this year, RAI decided the program was no longer a good fit for the channel. It announced in May it would not broadcast the 2013 edition.

Since then, newspaper stories have reported pageant officials were in talks with Mediaset, Sky-Italia (the local unit of Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox), and La7, the network acquired in March by businessman Urbano Cairo. Now pageant officials told The Hollywood Reporter the announcement of a deal with La7 was “imminent,” though terms were still being discussed (officials from La7 did not return calls seeking comment).

Assuming it goes through, the deal was not an easy one to hammer out. After talks with Mediaset and Sky-Italia broke down, discussions with La7 also appeared at one point ready to collapse well. In August, La7 director Enrico Mentana raised eyebrows when he wrote on his Facebook page: "Miss Italia on La7? No thanks. A network's identity is a serious matter."

The finals are scheduled to be held in October in the town of Jesolo, near Venice. Only the Oct. 13 finals will be broadcast, according to a Miss Italia spokesman, compared to two nights of broadcasts last year and as many as four in previous editions.

VIDEO: Miss Utah Flubs Answer at Miss USA Pageant

Like many beauty pageants, Miss Italia has in recent years drawn criticism as an outdated event that objectifies women. But it has also remained popular: though viewership has declined in recent years, two evenings of coverage of the 2012 event drew a 25 share, with more than 5 million viewers.

The Miss Italia contest has particularly close ties to the country's storied cinema industry: over the years it has launched the careers of many actresses, including Sophia Loren, Stefania Sandrelli, Lucia Bose, and Marcella Mariani. Last year’s winner was Siclian Giusy Buscemi, who is now an aspiring actress.

Though at first, there was some speculation in the Italian media that the pageant could be called off if it could not be not broadcast, officials now say the event will take place even if there is no broadcast deal.

“The pageant will go on, no matter what,” the media quoted Patrizia Mirigliani, daughter of the event’s long-time organizer Enzo Mirigliani, as saying.

Twitter: @EricJLyman