RAI turnaround in sight, Cappon says


ROME -- Italian state broadcaster RAI continues to lose money, according to statements made by RAI chief Claudio Cappon on Monday, but the losses are shrinking and the broadcaster seems poised to turn a profit in 2009.

As a state-owned company with no private shareholders, RAI is not legally required to issue statements about its finances. But estimates and bits of information gleaned from the national budget have resulted in published estimations that the broadcaster has gobbled up hundreds of millions of euros in state subsidies in recent years.

But Cappon said the financial health of the company is improving. The newly appointed general manager said that the state contribution to RAI's budget this year will likely come in at about €35 million ($49.7 million), compared with earlier estimates that it would require €46 million ($65.3 million) in subsidies. And the broadcaster appears on pace to break even within two years.

Cappon said a program of systematic cost-cutting and changes in its policies toward advertising and organization will start to show dividends by 2008, with the broadcaster expected to rake in €15 million ($21.3 million) in profit. RAI's profits should shrink in 2009, Cappon said, but the company should remain in the black, to the tune of €4 million ($5.7 million). Revenue for 2008 and 2009 should come in at €3.2 billion and €3.4 billion, respectively.

Cappon's projections were released the same day the broadcaster said it would give Italian residents a new way to pay their "canone" -- the annual fee they pay to support RAI -- by allowing it to be tacked on to a resident's electricity bill.

The fee, which totals €99 ($141) for a one-television household, provides the bulk of RAI's operating budget, but evasion of the fee is expected to cost RAI some €15 million ($21.3 million) a year, and RAI says it hopes that making the payment easier will help bring some canone evaders into the fold.