David de Jong reports: The president of Italian public broadcaster Rai, Claudio Petruccioli, has received a political motion of distrust from the Italian parliamentary commission (Commissione Vigilanza Rai). The motion was initially written to dismiss the complete board of Rai, but just before voting it was changed in order to dismiss only the president. The official reason for the motion was political imbalance on the board of Rai (Consiglio d’Amministrazione Rai).
Claudio Petruccioli (an ex-member of parliament for the centre left government party DS) responded by letter, saying that he will not resign for the time being. Petruccioli indicated that the vote had nothing to do with his work or functioning, and his full term would end in July 2008. However, Petruccioli is willing to resign if a new president is elected in a legal way; in other words, if at least 27 of the 40 members of the Rai parliamentary commission vote in favour of a new president, which has to be proposed first by the shareholder (minister) in a complex political procedure.
Petruccioli also stated clearly that the current legislation (made by the Berlusconi government) does not give parliament the mandate to dismiss a president of the Italian public broadcaster or its board. However Petruccioli stated that members of the board, including the president, can always be elected, and by the same means they can also be replaced.
This week the board of Rai decided on new strategic plans for the Italian public broadcaster for the years 2008-2010. The vote in the commission was taken after 19 members had left the meeting in protest. Then 20 of the 21 remaining members voted in favour, and members of government parties Rosa nel Pugno, UDEUR and Italia del Valore voted together with the opposition in favour of the motion of distrust. This might have been done as a political move to indicate their problems with the current situation.
This week a lot of political discussion and problems occured after the Minister of Justice (Clemente Mastella of UDEUR) was accused of abusing his position after he removed a political fraud investigator in Catanzaro who had also investigated Mr Mastella himself. Also protests of the ultra-left political parties against (their own) government led to the call for an election by opposition leader Silvio Berlusconi.
Also the President of the House of Representatives (Bertinotti) discussed openly on television what the best way forward would be, when the government falls. This was a few days after Justice Minister Mastella had openly said that elections would be the best way to resolve the problems in the country. In this climate, the President of Rai received the motion of distrust. The government coalition works with only a few seats majority in Senate, resulting in a difficult way of governing.
Will the Berlusconi media law ever be changed?
The media law of the current Communication Minister Gentiloni (Margherita) has been postponed to at least next year. This new media law should correct the problems with the current media law, introduced by the Berlusconi government, and which the European Commission is urging the Italian government to change. The Berlusconi law allows a disproportionate market share for Mediaset, the media company which Berlusconi’s Fininvest holding controls.
If the government falls, and the center-right coalition of Berlusconi wins back power, it is likely that the disproportionate media situation in Italy will continue for more years to come. Then also the Italian freedom of the press would be again under serious pressure, as was the case between 2001 and 2006.