Pippo Baudo Slams Italian State Broadcaster RAI

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The long-time RAI presenter, who has hosted the country’s most popular non-sports television event several times, said that the "modern-day RAI just sucks."

ROME – One of the best-known presenters with Italian state broadcaster RAI said Monday that the company “sucks” and needs a powerful savior to orchestrate a dramatic turnaround, as the government sponsored reform process for the storied company has become bogged down amid political infighting.

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Pippo Baudo, 75, the long-time RAI presenter who has hosted the country’s most popular non-sports television event, the Festival of San Remo, more than anyone else, said RAI “sucks” and is in need of the leadership of a turnaround artist like Sergio Marchionne, the Ferrari executive credited with saving Italian automaker Fiat.

“Modern-day RAI just sucks,” Baudo told the Milan daily newspaper Corriere della Sera, about his long-time employer that finished last year an estimated €200 million ($261 million) in the red and has been cutting back services and productions in order to avoid bankruptcy. “RAI now bad at every level.”

Meanwhile, efforts from technocrat Prime Minister Mario Monti to reform the beleaguered company have slowed in recent days amid political bickering. The major left-leaning and centrist political parties support a plan for the government to appoint a kind of commissioner to oversee the reform process, but Angelino Alfano, the leader of the political block tied to media tycoon and Monti’s predecessor as prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, opposes the idea on the grounds that it could make RAI a political mouthpiece for the left.

With parties unable to come to an agreement, the reform process has stalled just days after Monti was given greater powers by parliament to push through reforms at RAI and elsewhere. The plan to appoint a commissioner was the first step in Monti’s reform plan.

RAI has been struggling economically for years, and its situation has worsened in recent months as the austerity measures from the Monti government have reduced government support for the company and forced dramatic cutbacks including the closure of RAI’s long-time New York offices.

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 RAI is considering various strategies to remain solvent, including expanding obligations for payment of the “canone” fee used to support the broadcaster to include personal computers, tablet computer, MP4 players, and smart phones.

Italy has seven free-to-air national networks: three owned by RAI; three from Berlusconi’s Mediaset; and Telecom Italia Media subsidiary La Tre. The other major player is satellite broadcaster Sky-Italia, a subsidiary of News Corp.

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