RAI Int'l making 'essential' moves


ROME -- The international arm of Italian state broadcaster RAI on Monday announced that it will begin working under a new agreement that will allow its signal to be carried by more satellite providers and will split current programming among three separate channels.

RAI International did not release budget figures related to the initiative, but it is clear the plan has some friends in high places. Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi called the new initiative "essential" in comments that appeared in the local media.

"I consider this new course for RAI International essential," Prodi said. "It is in the best interest of Italian communities abroad and it is also essential for presenting Italy to foreigners as a serious country with complex issues."

Two new channels that will begin broadcasting soon will focus on Italian news and Italian entertainment and fiction programs. A third channel, to be added within a year, will focus on sports.

Under director Piero Badaloni, RAI International is continuing its development as an autonomous entity with its own programming schedule rather than one that simply rebroadcasts programming from the broadcaster's three local Italian networks.