European Federation of Journalists


Crisis in

Italian Media:

How Poor Politics and

Flawed Legislation Put

Journalism Under Pressure



Report of the IFJ/EFJ Mission to Italy

6-8 November 2003



The European Federation of Journalists carried out a mission to investigate the media situation in Italy on November 6-8, 2003, only weeks before the final adoption of a disputed new communication law, la Legge Gasparri and before it was dramatically rejected by the Italian President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi. This mission took place as the Italian Presidency was drawing to a close and when relations between the Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and his media critics had reached a new low.


In a year when the Prime Minister has faced down many of the country’s senior judges, over charges brought against him for business affairs going back many years, he turned against his media detractors and proclaimed that 81 % of journalists in Italy are against him. There have been numerous incidents of confrontation involving the Prime Minister, his supporters and his media critics.


Outside Italy there has been widespread consternation over the conflict of interest caused by the election of Mr. Berlusconi, one of Europe’s leading media owners. In his private life he owns three major TV networks (Canale 5, Italia 1 and Rete Quattro), one newspaper, a book and magazine publishing house (Mondadori) and a large slice of the advertising market (through the advertising agency Publitalia). As Prime Minister he is able to exert undue influence over the country’s public service broadcaster RAI.


In no other settled democracy in the world has such a situation ever existed. Press freedom groups, human rights organisations and journalists both in Italy and abroad, have expressed deep unease at the media crisis that has developed in Italy.  A selection of IFJ and EFJ public protests in recent months is attached to this report.


In response to these worries, the International Federation of Journalists and its regional organisation, the EFJ, in co-operation with Italian journalists’ groups, decided to investigate.


The origins of the mission that travelled to Italy in November 2003 lies in a resolution adopted by the EFJ at its 2003 Annual Meeting in Prague. Journalists called for action because they fear that the situation in Italy is a serious potential threat to the right to independent and impartial information. Similar concerns led the European Parliament in October to launch an inquiry into media freedom throughout the European Union following a move by the Parliament’s Committee of Citizens’ Freedom and Rights to seek a specific report on media ownership and independence in Italy alone1.


The crisis in media in Italy is not only of dramatic importance to Italy, but also to Europe. It has three important dimensions:


(1) The relationship between journalists and governments;

(2) The editorial independence of journalists;

(3) The concept of public interest in broadcasting and journalism.


These questions are central to all democracies. In Europe they have a particular significance in the light of the upcoming enlargement of the European Union, a development that signals, for a number of countries, the end of the transition from former corporatist and centralised forms of government to a democratic framework of pluralist politics based upon respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, including free expression and freedom of the press. 


Outside Italy the media crisis is defined almost universally in terms of the personality of Silvio Berlusconi. However, this is a superficial analysis that does not adequately explain the context and depth of the Italian media situation, which has been difficult and complex for many years.


Successive political administrations of the last 20 years have failed to carry out reforms that would ensure a framework for independent media that protects the values of independent journalism and access to information as a cornerstone of democracy.


In no country are media able to play a democratic role unless there is a consensus within the political community, of every persuasion, committed to pluralism and press freedom. This requires a readiness to guarantee a legal and policy framework that ensures editorial independence at public and private level.


A key feature of creating a viable system in which media can operate freely is the level of co-operation between government and media professionals on how best to regulate the affairs of journalism and media.


The following report seeks to improve the quality of understanding of the media crisis in Italy among journalists, journalists unions and civil society. It includes a number of recommendations to take the debate forward in Italy and within the European Union. Its findings and recommendations will be submitted not only to the concerned parties in Italy (government, parliament, media professionals, civil society) but also to the European Parliament and European Commission as well as all other relevant institutions including the Council of Europe, OSCE Representative for Media Freedom, and the UN Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression.


The mission did meet leading figures from all sectors of media, which helped to provide a better understanding of the legislative and institutional situation, the economic conditions and gave an opportunity to assess the quality of independence of journalists. However, despite its best efforts, the mission was denied a meeting with the Minister of Communication Maurizio Gasparri or one of his staff. At the highest level an opportunity for dialogue was refused even after extensive consultations with the staff of the Prime Minister’s office.


The content of the draft law on television broadcasting (norme di principio in materia di assetto del sistema radiotelevisivo e della RAI-Radiotelevisione Italiana Spa, nonché delega al Governo per l’emanzione del testo unico della radiotelevisione) known as the legge Gasparri, and its potential impact on the media in Italy, both private and public, has been given a special focus. This will be a key legal text in the elaboration of media activity in the coming years. A press conference was also organised by the FNSI (see press clippings included in annex)


Background Note:


In Italy, the communication system is dominated by big television and radio companies: the public service broadcaster RAI (three general television networks, three radio networks, one ‘all news’ digital network and several specialised network including RAI  Education, RAI culture etc.), the major private broadcaster,  Mediaset owned by Silvio Berlusconi with three general networks and important parts of the digital terrestial and on line media; the La 7 telecom group (Lombardian entrepreneurs with reference to Marco Tronchetti Provera-Pirelli);  niche TV, a  general channel and  MTV channel; Sky Italia, monopoly of satellite owned by Robert Murdoch. In addition there are about 1,000 small local TV and radio stations.


Mediaset and RAI together account for about 60% of media advertisements in Italy and 95% of advertisements for the whole television sector. 


There are about 80 daily newspapers, with a total of about 5 million daily circulation. However the main dailies are shared by a few industrial families, who do not have publishing as their core business. Among the owners are Agnelli of Fiat, De Benedetti, and Caltagiorne. Silvio Berlusconi also has newspaper interests.


There are some 70,000 registered journalists in Italy, of which around 13,000 to 14,000 are professional journalists and 16,000 freelances. The others are journalists, but who have no fixed position and for whom journalism is not the primary source of income.





A Controversial New Law


In July 2002 the President of the Republic Carlo Azeglio Ciampi issued a stark warning on the need to take prompt action to frame a law that would safeguard pluralism of information in Italy. He said that the ‘declarations of the European Parliament and of the Council of Europe’ would have to be incorporated into national law within the year, in order to stress that freedom of expression included ‘the freedom to transmit information and ideas’.  He called for a ‘systematic intervention’ to regulate the media, in order to safeguard ‘the central public service role’ provided for in the Amsterdam Treaty, whilst entrusting to the Regions the task of advancing ‘local identities and cultures’.


In response, the Berlusconi Government proposed a comprehensive reform of the communications system, which was presented to Parliament by the Minister for Communications, Maurizio Gasparri, and after a turbulent passage, was agreed in the autumn of 2003.


On December 16 2003 the President created a sensation in Italy and around Europe when he rejected to sign this new law into effect. The Parliament, he said, needed to think again.


This controversial law for reforming the media and communications landscape, including radio and television, the printed press, and new electronic media, had long been awaited: the old Mammì Law,2 adopted in 1990 and still in force, had been modified many times by the Parliament and the Constitutional Court, but was clearly unsuitable for the changing realities in media. It was out of step with the pace of technological innovation and media globalisation and was not appropriate to address the changing media scene in Italy with the arrival of digital broadcasting, so far totally in the hands of Rupert Murdoch, few and weak national and local alternatives to the duopoly of Mediaset and RAI and the crisis of advertising on newspapers.


Since July 2003 Rupert Murdoch via News Corporation has started to transmit the 24 hours pay TV channel Sky. The EFJ delegation met with SKY management (see below).


Although the Gasparri law was born with the intention to create a new, more suitable framework for the regulation of a fast-changing media landscape, it immediately raised fears that it was intended to give more possibilities for Mediaset to expand.


Its first goal, according to many of those interviewed, was to avoid the judgement of the Constitutional Court, which had established December 31st 2003 as the last date for fixing a maximum limit of two national channels for each of the countries two major TV groups, compelling on the one hand Mediaset to put its Rete Quattro channel onto satellite transmission while ordering RAI to broadcast its third channel (RAI 3) without commercials. 


The Gasparri law waives this deadline, and foresees the practical abolition of existing antitrust rules. Instead, it establishes a new framework by which any market player may gather up to 20% of market share across the broad media, information and communication sector defined as the SIC – the integrated system of communications.  This sectoral definition is immense, covering not just news and general media, but film and music production, book publishing, all forms of text publishing, on-line services, advertising and marketing, and the public service sector including revenue from licence fees.


The creation of a single sector for all economic activity in the publishing, broadcasting, and information market, says critics, enables Mediaset – the largest private player and the only one making substantial profits – to expand its activities.  Under such an imprecise and fluid system, “dominant positions” will be difficult to identify, they say, and limitation of ownership covers not only one sector such as TV or radio or the press, but the whole range of economic services in the information and communication field.


All the old antitrust limits applied to different sectors – prohibiting more than 20% holdings in the press, or 20% in TV and radio – are abolished under the Gasparri law, which also changes the criteria for the appointment of the Board of Directors of RAI. The “independent” role of the RAI President, now appointed directly by the Minister of Finance, will come to an end.


The law will have a potentially devastating effect on media. Observers are worried that while it apparently permits total freedom for Mediaset, it will maintain government control over RAI, with the possibility of a move towards possible gradual privatisation. The television landscape will be locked as it is, with an exception for News Corporation’s Sky Italia, owned by Rupert Murdoch. There are provisions for some money to the press, although some believe these are sweeteners to silence opposition.


Some of those interviewed said that the law’s impact on the digital broadcasting sector could be to increase the number of channels and thereby provide for pluralism. Most acknowledged that this scenario was uncertain and in all likelihood was only possible in the long term. It still remains impossible to predict when the new technology, which makes the switch from analogue to digital possible, will be used to allow new operators to enter the market.


In sum, the law promotes a structure and system that almost all those who talked to the EFJ mission (with the exception of representatives of the Berlusconi media interests) said was potentially dangerous for pluralism and press freedom.


The law, passed by the Italian Parliament on December 3, however was not signed into law by the President of the Republic in December, who made use of his constitutional right to veto this legislation.


Interview: Antitrust Authority


Giuseppe Tesauro, President of the Italian Antitrust Authority, told the mission that the concept of the integrated communication system (ICS) is incompatible with competition law. He said it would create confusion in terms of defining the market.


The dominant position defined according to the ICS does not constitute a parameter of antitrust, he says. He says that the Mammi law has not defined the ‘relevant market’3 either. In other European countries and within the legal regulations of the European Union, the acquis communautaire (Article 81 and Article 82 on the abuse of dominant positions), the tools of antitrust are based on the concept of the relevant market.


In Tesauro’s view the Gasparri law tries to mix a future technological scenario with the present conditions, which are quite different. The switching from analogue to digital TV, which will take place in Italy in 2006, might allow pluralism in information. He says the question of frequencies belongs to the regulatory field of European Union competition law, and EU Commissioner for Internal Market would have to confirm whether it is compatible with competition law. 


Interview: Communications Authority


Representatives of the ‘Autorita per le garanzie nelle communicazioni’ (Italian Communications Authority) also expressed their concerns about the difficulty of using antitrust tools measuring dominant positions in the so-called integrated communications system. President Enzo Cheli anticipates objections from the European Commission.


Instead, the authority suggests that regulations regarding convergence should be dealt with at European level, especially when considering the entry of News Corporation into the Italian market.


However, despite their fears the authority, which was set up in 1997 charged with responsibility for monitoring respect for broadcasting legislation and for ensuring pluralism and accuracy in the news media, has no significant powers and can at most only signal the cases of evident violation of the laws in force at national and European level.


Interviews: The Impact of Cross-Ownership


Regarding cross-ownership, the proposed law says that after 1 January 2009 cross-ownership of media across different sectors of press and broadcasting will be allowed nationwide.


Although all actors have no objection to the principle of cross-ownership, Italian publishers fear that under the current media system, in which Mediaset and RAI are the only main actors4 in the broadcasting sector and have the main share of the advertisement revenue, it will be much easier for TV (primarily Mediaset) to buy newspaper groups than vice versa.


Alfredo Del Lucchese, Vice Director of La Repubblica5 says that purchasing broadcasting outlets for print-based groups, even if they are in an economically healthy position, will be hardly possible. It would be much more likely for the broadcasting giant Fininvest, which owns Mediaset, to buy more newspaper groups. However, he does not exclude the possibility for print media groups to use the partial privatisation of RAI to get a foothold in TV. Some observers even mention that print groups may set up joint ventures in the TV sector.


According to Maurizio Belpietro, Director of Il Giornale, a newspaper controlled by Silvio Berlusconi’s brother (Paolo Berlusconi)6, the Gasparri Law will allow a modern regulation of the media market taking account of new technologies and its potential for pluralism. He told the mission that the market is restricted and limits the development of the media. He is convinced that cross ownership will be positive, and that there is no danger that newspaper groups, which are owned by strong industrial groups, could be bought by Mediaset or RAI. He believes News Corporation or Italian Telecom could take advantage of the law and enter the market.


With regard to the crucial question of advertisements and advertisement revenue, according to the legge Gasparri the amount of advertising allowed will be increased, including at RAI. Currently each single channel is limited to a holding of 30% of the advertising within the television sector. The draft law plans to limit each player to a maximum of 20% of advertising, but within the whole of the “integrated communication system”, which covers all sectors of media.


The current TV advertisement market is worth around €6 billion, whereas the “integrated communication system” market is valued at  €25 billions.


An important aspect of the Italian media market is that advertising is cheap compared to other European countries, making it difficult for small broadcasters to earn large revenues. Moreover, newcomers are restricted because only existing analogue broadcasters are allowed to apply for digital frequencies (Law 2001/66).


The combination of these factors explain why opponents to the law fear that it will favour existing broadcasters (especially Mediaset) who have the advantage of economy of scale and will be able to expand. There will be few chances for smaller players and independent or alternative media to emerge.


Emilio Fede, Director of Mediaset’s Rete Quattro, told the mission that he is convinced that the advertisement revenue is related to the economic health of a company and that there will be enough for both, press and broadcasting sector. He said that the crisis in the press is related to the high costs of the salaries of journalists.


Nevertheless, the concerns of newspaper publishers have been widely expressed. ‘Accendiamo la tv, senza spegnere la stampa’ (Let’s switch on the TV without switching off the press), has been the slogan of the concerted campaign of the Italian Newspaper Publishers Association (FIEG) against the new law.


Publishers believe the definition of the relevant market is distorted and extremely large, and they are adamant that dominant TV, such as Mediaset, will have an advantage in accumulating even more advertisement revenue. They predict the publishing houses in Italy face an enormous battle for survival.


Sebastiano Sortino, Director of FIEG, told the EFJ that advertisement revenues in the Italian TV market account for 53.3% of the total advertising market against the European average of 29%. Mediaset alone controls more advertisement revenue than the entire print sector. He says that a form of advertisement, called tele-promotion, used in television, is excluded from the Gasparri law, and thus will not be accounted for. According to him this is not in line with the regulations set out in the European Union’s Television Without Frontiers Directive.


Alfredo Del Lucchese says that Mediaset through its advertisement company Publitalia has reached about €2.589 (billion) of revenues. He says that the law will pose a threat to the pluralism of information as guaranteed in Article 21 of the Italian Constitution because under its provisions Mediaset or Fininvest will be able to augment further its advertisement revenue.


The Crisis in Public Service BroadcastingInterview with Lucia Annunziata, President of RAI


Italy’s public broadcaster RAI, unusually among western European broadcasters has been heavily politicised because of the traditional policy of “lottizzazione’, whereby each of the main political parties has been assigned its own RAI channel. This has meant that the three channels have always been characterised as politically aligned – not so many years ago it was quite normal to think of RAI Uno (Christian Democrat), RAI Due (Social Democrat) and RAI Tre (Communist) in their political livery rather than as independent units within an integrated public broadcaster that had established forms of internal pluralism. 


The fragmentation of traditional politics and the growth of a politically defined private sector have disturbed this particular model of public broadcasting, causing concern among RAI journalists regarding the job security as well as their professional and social status.


Since his election there have been incidents whereby Prime Minister Berlusconi has been critical of individual journalists in their work. At the same time there is widespread recognition that the old system of allocating channels to mainstream political parties is over and a modernised system of public broadcasting is long overdue. Critical to the future is the question of future funding. It is no surprise, then, that at the heart of the current media crisis in Italy is the debate about the political and financial future of RAI.


Journalists and media workers of RAI are among those most fearful about what the future will bring. The fear is that as finances become increasingly scarce RAI is likely to be privatised at least partly in the coming years as many predict under the new communications law.


Lucia Annunziata, the President of RAI (elected by the opposition) and part of a board with four members from the governmentgovernment majority, has a reduced level of influence on RAI plicypolicy. She has said that if the Gasparri Law is adopted she will leave her position as President??. Though the bill seemingly offers to save public service broadcasting, in reality there is no certainty regarding the resources to be allocated to it (advertisement revenue is reduced and there is no mention of a licence fee). RAI is supposed to have new obligations (i.e. terrestrial digital service by 2006 and two experimental channels immediately), for which no funding has been earmarked.since


The law also provides a change in the composition of its board of governors. RAI’s privatisation is to begin before the end of January, but no one will be able to own more than one per cent of the shares, which will leave the Minister of Economy in control.


RAI’s board of governors will have nine members – seven of them named by the Parliamentary Monitoring Commission and two by the Ministry of Economy.


AnnuziataAnnunziata says that within RAI there is a fierce battle over the network’s independence from the government. She says so far this outcome is not clear although she insists, “Italy is not an undemocratic regime yet”.


The problem in Italy is not related to direct political influence or restrictions on freedom of the press or free expression, she says. Instead, it is related to the aggressive market policies of the Prime Minister, who owns the main private TV stations and to his conflict of interest.


RAI’s income from the license fee is much less that enjoyed by public broadcasters in most other European countries. The fee costs just 93 Euro per Italian household each year. In Germany each household pays exmaple194 Euro. As a result,??? dependence on advertisement revenue is much stronger. Lucia AnnuziataAnnunziata says that because Mediaset will have an enourmousenormous advantage in terms of increasing advertising revenues and will thereby be in a position to marginalise RAI.


Nevertheless, she puts the RAI crisis into the context of the general threat facing public service television throughout Europe. She says public serbiceservice broadcasting is in danger throughout the continent and its specific role needs to be redefined to refocus public broadcasting and to rebuild public confidence.redefind 


Enzo Biagi, 82, well-known conservative, experienced journalist, has produced since 1995 a daily five minutes programme ‘Il Fatto’ on  RAI 1, but his programme was taken off the air after criticising the Berlusconi government. RAI management stopped broadcasting “Il Fatto” in June last year, a decision that rankles with Biagi. In a telephone interview with the delegation, he said his case shows that RAI though by law public TV, has become government TV. 


Emilio Fede, Director of Rete Quattro, and an open supporter of Berlusconi responds that the media, both public and private, are prisoners of political opinion. He is pessimistic for the future. He gives the example of RAI 3, which has traditionally been influenced by the left. However as a person of the media who is well aware of the political scene he is aware too that the passage of the legge Gasparri is vital to his own interests, since the  Mammi law and the Constitutional Court had warned that Rete 4 should stop transmission or be transferred to satellite transmission. With good reason he says political influence increasingly becomes invasive into the work of journalism.


Many of the organised and full time journalists working at RAI are members of the FNSI which has expressed concern over the media crisis. It is a preoccupation shared by the umbrella trade unions CGIL, CISL and UIL who have warned over the deficit of pluralism in the Italian media landscape and the dramatic situation at RAI, in which criticism and satire has been taken off the air.


There have been numerous common initiatives between the FNSI and the three trade unions Cgil, Cisl and Uil, also because RAI has refused to cover several demonstrations organised by the trade unions in protest against the reform of the labour law, the pensions and other issues.


Nevertheless, while internal conflict continues the launching of SKY Italia in July of 2003 shows that the scene is changing and may radically alter in the next few years. Although still marginal, the new network is able to take advantage of the polarised and highly politicised media situation. It claims to practise independent and impartial journalism and offers a serious challenge to both Mediaset and RAI. So far about 2 million subscribers have signed up for this pay television option.



The Crisis in


The Press and Publishing


While print media offer a range of political views – the main national dailies being Corriere Della Sera, La Repubblica, La Stampa, Il Sole 24 Ore, Il Giornale – they all suffer economically from the broadcast media dominance.


This may ultimately pose a threat to their independence. The bottom line is profitability for Italy’s press groups, whose owners are mostly industrialists with business interests in other sectors as well. The Gasparri law in theory would allow the big print media, which until now were unable to own TV stations, to expand to the broadcasting market. But in practice, because of the disproportionate financial resources involved, most persons interviewed say Mediaset is the only player in a position to take advantage of the proposed legislation by making print media acquisitions.


While diversity of news and views is generally respected in the print media, journalists say there have been attempts to pressure Corriere della Sera. Nevertheless, publishers believe that freedom of the press continues to be guaranteed, however, they are unsure of the future and warn that a battle for media markets driven by economic capacity might threaten the independence and plurality of the press in the long run.


Raffaele Fiengo, member of the editorial committee of the Corriere della Sera believes that freedom of the press is in danger in the longer term because of the conflict of interest of the Prime Minister. According to him the change of the editor in chief of Corriere della Sera in June might have been influenced by Berlusconi.  He said that the journalists of Corriere della Sera published a statement that the independence of the newspaper was in danger. ‘Our country is polluted by Berlusconi,’ he told the mission delegation and said that Gasparri himself had intimidated finance reporters writing about the new law.


He adds that Corriere della Sera is owned by a group of industrialists, who all depend under some aspects on government subsidies. It is administered by a separate trust company, which acts on behalf of the owners, and which is supposed to provide protection from undue interference. However, he says that the shadow of the industrial owners is a long one that may lead to hidden pressure on the editorial policy.


Nevertheless, journalists continue to fight for editorial control. The editorial committee is allowed to complain regarding editorial policy and internal rules for freedom of journalists exist on paper, though it is hard to implement them. Censorship however does not exist.


Pier Luigi Magnaschi, Director of the Italian News Agency ANSA, which is owned by 37 newspapers from all political groups, says the agency is objective and does not provide any political views. Up to now ANSA has not been criticised by any government. He says that ANSA is protected by statutes and in the editorial board each newspaper has one vote, regardless of its size. ‘ANSA is an important tool for everybody and can almost be described as an institution. It is in healthy condition,’ he reports.



Civil Society and Political Opposition


Generally speaking there has not been much public interest in Italy in recent years regarding media ownership. The country’s political culture has contributed to a widespread passivity over media matters. Over the past 25 years a powerful commercial television sector has been established, eventually concentrated in the hands of the Berlusconi ‘trust’. There has been no effective legislation in this area.


At the same time the public broadcasting company, RAI, subject to direct political influence and its original nature changed, has been turned into a hybrid entity. The historical political problems have prevented strong regulation in the media. There has never been any strong political or civil society movement critical of this state of affairs.


As a result, attempts to change the situation have not been successful. Three attempts were made in 1995 to bypass the political stalemate over media and to introduce some anti-trust measures. But in successive referendums the majority of citizens voted against a proposal to ban ownership of more than one television channel, against a ban on commercial breaks in broadcast movies and, finally, in favour of a partial privatisation of RAI. These public votes have given Berlusconi supporters arguments to say they work in the public interest.


Only now with the proposal of the new communication law and the conflict of interest of the Prime Minister, has more opposition emerged from within political and civil society over the media crisis.


Intellectuals, unions and writers launched a group, called Article 21 after the last elections in May 2001. It was born out of the belief that the political opposition was not able to defend the Italian Constitution including Article 21 on freedom of expression.

Paolo Gentiloni, Member of Parliament and of La Margherita (Center Left party) says that due to the strong majority and the divided left, it has not been possible to successfully vote against the Gasparri law. He says that a left-wing government would draft a new law with the aim to ban any conflict of interest in the future and to find a balance between the broadcasting and press sector.

However, the current leadership of the opposition does not seem to be prepared to organise a united concerted campaign against the law. With the passage of the vote and the law secured politicians have moved on to the next issue for which the “House of Freedoms” is sharpening its knives: pension “reform.”



Conflict of Interest


Almost all those interviewed admit that in Italy the conflict of interest involving Silvio Berlusconi is unprecedented at European, even world level. Prime Minister Berlusconi is head of government and, simultaneously, the owner of three TV channels, a newspaper, a publishing house dealing with books and magazines, the advertisement company Publitalia. The Prime Minister has a wide open space to exert unfair advantages and undue political pressure on media.


The conflict of interest is not regulated by law. This is as much the responsibility of the current political opposition that, when governing from 1996 to 2001, did nothing to avoid the unacceptable mix of personal and government interests as far as media are concerned.


The present situation – as influential journalists and publishers’ representatives reported - is already in favour of Mediaset in particular, which has a dominant position that continues to increase, causing damage to the press, newspapers and magazines.


At the same time five TV news networks out of six support the Prime Minister; dozens of senior RAI journalists have been replaced; and Berlusconi exercises undue influence on the TV landscape, with the exception of the satellite pay channel Sky News. The banishment of Enzo Biagi, who told his story to the delegation, of Michele Santoro7, the comedian Daniele Luttazzi as well as the appointment of Flavio Catteneo, a supporter of the ruling coalition, as director general of RAI on 27 March 2003 reflect this undue influence.  Anyone refusing to fall into line with the mainstream control of media faces victimisation is banished. Nevertheless, Berlusconi supporters insist that charges of undue political pressures are meaningless. At several occasions recently Berlusconi said that about 70-80% of all journalists lean to the left and only 20% back the centre-right”. This would include journalists working for Mediaset.


Lorenzo del Boca, President of the Journalists’ ‘ordine’ (Ordine dei Giornalisti) said to the EFJ delegation that for journalists to fulfil their professional duty it was paramount to defend the citizens’ right to be informed. In this was under current conditions a daily fight.





1. It is impossible not to conclude that the media crisis in Italy is profound and serious. There is a deeply flawed system of management, a lack of public awareness, an element of political paralysis, and a deep sense of professional unease within Italian journalism about the future of media.


2. Nevertheless, the situation has not yet deteriorated to a level that sees press freedom and the core democratic right of free expression compromised. Indeed, Italy has a vibrant and plural printed press, it has a vigorous and robust diverse radio landscape, and the country’s journalists are able to assert their rights to freedom of speech, whether it concerns concentration of media ownership or the conflict of interest of the Prime Minister.


3. The crisis has been exacerbated by the combative and intemperate style of the Prime Minister who has sought to isolate and humiliate opponents, both political and media professional, rather than engaging in a proper debate about the measures needed to create a balanced and transparent system for regulating media in Italy in line with the standards of other European democracies.


4. Responsibility for the parlous state of the media landscape rests with successive governments that have failed to engage in a public debate and take appropriate action to ensure a proper separation between the exercise of political power and the operation of mass media.


5. The efforts to resolve the conflict of commercial and political interest of the Prime Minister in Italy by the establishment of so-called ‘blind trust’ has not been sufficient to secure public and professional confidence. Elected persons should be obliged to declare that they are not qualified to take decisions, where there are clear and specific conflicting interests.


6. The Italian crisis, however, is unlikely to be solved only at an Italian national level. While much can be done within the country, the issues at the heart of the crisis must be also addressed at European level.


7. Problems of media concentration, dominant market positions, media globalisation, pluralism, the conflict between commercial and political interests concern all democratic governments, both within Europe and around the world. The Italian experience is potentially dangerous in Europe, because it sets standards that may be followed by new and emerging European democracies that have still not been able to successfully regulate their own public and private media landscape.


8. In particular it is clear that increasing transnational media ownership in Europe (especially in the enlargement countries) and the lack of models for regulation in the new media landscape suggest that there is an urgent need for European Union rules on cross-ownership.




The Mission recommends


1. That urgent actions are needed to carry out further legal reform of the Italian media landscape. The following measures are strongly recommended:


* To withdraw the new law on communication and to take a fresh initiative to define the legal framework for Italian media – this time involving all media professional groups and Italian civil society.


* To carry out a genuine reform of public service broadcasting guaranteeing political and editorial independence and financial autonomy. In particular, urgent action is needed to increase income through the licence fee, which is at present one of the lowest in the EU. This will help reduce dependency upon advertisement revenue.


* To adopt clear antitrust rules and media regulation based upon the number of programmes or products, independent of its technical means, a definition of relevant markets that takes account of sector of activity and advertisement revenue.


* To establish a clear mandate for the Anti Trust Authority and the Communication Authority to independently enforce their decisions.


* To ensure that advertising in broadcasting (including tele-promotions) are in line with EU guidelines within the Television without Frontiers Directive.


* To review cross-ownership rules at national and European level to ensure that all media have equal access to the media market.


2. That action is taken to ensure a clear separation between the exercise of political    authority, control of the media and the practice of journalism, including:


* Legislation, at national and European level, to prohibit politicians or political candidates from having substantial commercial interests in the media. A law preventing conflict of interest must be established. The EFJ should request the European Commission to propose legislation in this matter.


* A section regulating conflict of interests in the Italian Communication Law or any other European media law.


* National monitoring organisations and European media monitoring groups to examine and report on issues related to media ownership and political activity to ensure that conflicts of interest and potential conflicts of interest are properly recognised and dealt with.


3.  That action is taken to strengthen editorial and journalistic independence through:


* A ban on censorship imposed on the editorial staff from outside, either through government, public authorities or private interests.


* The removal of threats to the exercise of professional journalism imposed on the editorial staff from internal sources seking to suppress information on the financial affairs, business or other activities of a parent company or its business partners or of unfairly promoting the economic interests of advertisers, sponsors or business partners.


* The establishment of editorial statutes and other provisions safeguarding the independence of journalists in all European media including public service broadcasting.






I. Terms of reference

II. List of delegation

III. List of people delegation met

IV. EFJ Position Paper on Legislating for a Democratic Media

V. Press Clippings of press conference, November 7, 2004 (print version only)

VI. Bibliography



I. Terms of Reference for the EFJ Mission of Inquiry to Italy



Arising from the decision of the 2003 Annual Meeting of the European Federation of Journalists, the EFJ Steering Committee has authorised a mission to visit Italy to be organised in co-operation with the FNSI.


The mission will meet with journalists, senior media executives, relevant political and civil society experts and figures and will examine and consider:


1. The current conditions for media pluralism and independent journalism taking account of concentration of media ownership and political influence over Italian media;


2. The editorial conditions for independent public service broadcasting;


3. The legal and regulatory framework for the protection of pluralism, editorial independence and ethical journalism.


The mission will make a report with recommendations on further actions needed for


* Reform of the media landscape in Italy, professionally and legally, particularly concerning broadcasting, to protect and secure editorial independence and plurality;


* A clear separation between the exercise of political authority, control of the media market and the practice of journalism ;


* Strengthening editorial freedom and journalistic independence;


Renewal of solidarity between media unions and journalists’ groups within Europe and their colleagues in Italy.   




II. List of delegation


Mogens Blicher Bjerregard         Danish Union of Journalists

Gustl Glattfelder            DJV-Deutscher Journalisten-Verband

Mario Guastoni              Syndicat National des Journalistes (France)

Björn Mansson              Finnish Union of Journalists

Jean-Paul Marthoz                     Independent Media Expert (Human Rights Watch)

Juan Antonio Prieto                    Federación de Asociaciones de la Prensa Española

Renate Schroeder                     European Federation of Journalists

Aidan White                              International Federation of Journalists



Antonio Velluto              Federazione della Stampa Italiana

Paolo Serventi Longhi                Federazione Della Stampa Italiana

       (Co-ordinator of the Mission)


III. List of people met by delegation


Lucia Annunziata, President RAI

Maurizio Belpietro, Director Il Giornale

Enzo Biagi, journalist (Telephone conference)

Lorenzo Del Boca, President, Ordini dei Giornalisti

Dr. Emilio Carelli and Dr.Tullio Camiglieri, Sky

Prof Enzo Cheli, President Authority Telecomunicazioni

Emilio Fede, Director of TG4 (Mediaset); (Telephone conference)

Raffaele Fiengo, Editorial committee of Corriere della Sera (Telephone conference)

Stefano Folli, Director of Corriere della Sera (Telephone conference)

MP Paolo Gentiloni, La Margherita (Center left party)

Giuseppe Giulietti, Articolo 21

Pier Luigi Magnaschi, Director Ansa (Italian National News Agency)

Roberto Natale,  RAI Union of Journalists (USIGRAI)

Alfredo Del Lucchese, Vice Director of La Repubblica

Sebastiano Sortino, Director Fieg (Italian National Publishers Association)

Giuseppe Tesauro, President of Authority Antitrust



IV. EFJ Position Paper:  Legislating for a Democratic Media



Policy Document from the European Federation of Journalists





1.1 The European Federation of Journalists, the regional organisation of the International Federation of Journalists representing more than 280,000 journalists in 31 countries, believes that professional journalists, organised in free and independent trade unions, play a key role in the creation and maintenance of a democratic media culture.


1.2 The EFJ/IFJ believes that democracy depends upon the extension of freedom of expression and social justice worldwide. In the view of the EFJ/IFJ, democracy depends upon an understanding of the special and particular role of the media in democratic society.


1.3 The EFJ/IFJ believes that media must respect the professional and ethical principles of press freedom upon which the freedom of expression and opinion relies.


The EFJ/IFJ defines press freedom as:


"In line with Article 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights, the right to publish, editorial independence and freedom from restraint, which are essential to enable journalists and media professionals to advance the public interest by publishing, broadcasting or circulating facts and opinions without which a democratic electorate cannot make responsible judgments."


The EFJ/IFJ believes this freedom can only be expressed when there exists:


a) A free, independent and pluralistic media reflecting diversity of opinion;


b) A free flow of information enabling full democratic exchange in all communities, whether based on geography, ethnic origins, shared values or common language;


c) Statutory defence and protection of citizens' rights to freedom of information and the right to know;


d) Respect for editorial independence and the professional status of journalists.


1.4 The EFJ/IFJ considers that the treatment of news and information as a commodity must not override or interfere with the duty of journalists and media to inform the public.


1.5 The EFJ/IFJ believes in the coexistence of public service and private broadcasting in order to protect independence, pluralism and variety in programming to the enrichment of all sections of society.


1.6 The EFJ/IFJ affirms that responsibility for ethical conduct and maintenance of the highest standards in journalism rests with media professionals through systems of self-regulation.


1.7 The EFJ/IFJ strongly believes that the law should not interfere in matters, which are the proper responsibility of working journalists: namely, the gathering, preparation, selection and transmission of information;


1.8 The EFJ/IFJ believes that any harmonisation of media laws at regional level should take the highest standards and best regulations as a model;


1.9 The EFJ/IFJ calls on the institutions of the European Union -- the Parliament, Commission and Council -- to ensure that no legal or policy initiatives are taken without consultation with representative journalists' organisations.




The political institutions of the Europe must protect the rights of citizens and promote transparency, understanding and participation in the development of policies designed to strengthen the social, economic and political cohesion of communities. The special role of media in this process requires that legal protection for media independence and support for professionalism in journalism should be of the highest priority.


2.1 The EFJ/IFJ declares that limiting concentration of ownership/ cross ownership and developing anti-trust legislation at European level is a precondition for a democratic and independent media in Europe and should be treated as a priority.


2.2 The EFJ/IFJ considers the implementation of the principle of editorial independence (editorial statutes) in all European media as a necessity to guarantee the professional independence of journalists and a pluralistic press.


2.3 The EFJ/IFJ believes that creating structures for dialogue to bring together legitimate representatives of workforce and management to discuss the economic and social development of the media and practical implementation of laws, policies and standards is essential to safeguarding a free and democratic media.




A European Freedom of Information Act should be prepared which:


a) Adopts the principles of Freedom of Information Acts in the United States, Sweden and other countries, and guarantees all journalists access to information from Community and public authorities (ruling out exclusive access to such information);


b) Provides protection to public-sector employees, as in the US Employee Health and Safety Whistleblower Protection Act, and safeguards reporters' sources of information on criminal or anti-social actions by public- or private-sector enterprises against any form of discrimination";


c) Recognises the general obligation to give information of public interests to journalists applying to both private and public organisations;


d) Includes protection of internal press freedom through a framework directive on editorial statutes ensuring editorial freedoms;


e) Ensures the principle of the application of the social charter to all media enterprises without any restrictions concerning journalists.





A European Freedom of Information Act should include provisions to:


Permit all journalists to maintain professional secrecy and to protect the identity of sources of information including researched material;




4.1 The EFJ/IFJ believes that codes of ethics or codes of conduct must be drawn up by the professionals themselves.


4.2 The EFJ/IFJ Code of Conduct provides a code of ethics adopted by all national representative journalists organisations in Europe. Therefore, the EFJ/IFJ Code of Conduct provides the basis for a common European understanding on ethical issues through voluntary adoption of journalists and publishers. In this area EFJ/IFJ sees no active role neither for the Commission nor for national governments.


4.3 The EFJ/IFJ calls upon the European Union and the Council of Europe to encourage editors and management to establish together with the journalists the application of the rules by which the code shall be adopted.




5.1 To safeguard editorial independence a European framework legislation should be introduced in consultation with the representative professional organisations and social partners to ensure that:

?  There is no censorship imposed on the editorial staff from outside, neither through government, public authorities or private interests;

?  There is no restriction or impediment to the exercise of professional journalism imposed on the editorial staff from internal sources with the intention of suppressing information regarding the financial affairs, business or other activities of the parent company or its business partners or of unfairly promoting the economic interests of advertisers, sponsors or business partners;

?  Editorial statutes and other provisions safeguarding the independence of journalists are introduced in all European media.




6.1 The EFJ/IFJ supports the creation of structures for dialogue between journalists and editors and publishers, both in the written and audiovisual media in order to promote better understanding and a common approach on professional, social and economic development of media. The EFJ welcomes the initiative of social dialogue in the audiovisual sector of the EU.


6.2 Such structures for dialogue should bring together legitimate representatives of workforce, journalists and editorial management to discuss:


a) The economic and social development of the media, and in particular, the need to limit monopolisation which can threaten diversity of information sources necessary for the practice of democracy at all levels in society;


b) The problems of unemployment and job insecurity whether caused by concentration of mass media ownership or otherwise;


c) The practical implementation of laws, policies and standards designed to assist in the development of a free and pluralistic media;


d) Professional, economic and social conditions within media including:


1. The development of openness and transparency in the business and social affairs of all media enterprises and the creation of works councils;


2. The maintenance of independent and recognised systems of professional training which reflect the need for high quality journalism, independent and distinct from political and commercial imperatives;


3. Legal recognition of mechanisms for the defence of freedom of information and independent journalism such as editorial statutes;


4. The creation of secure working conditions within media enterprises through instruments such as collective agreements, based upon equality of opportunity and including limitations on exploitation of freelance and casual labour.




7.1 Access to the profession should be free. The professional level of future journalists should be as high as possible.


7.2 Trainee journalists must undergo proper training under conditions agreed by publishers and journalists' unions.


7.3 Appointments are restricted to qualified journalists, that is, persons who have minimum professional qualifications agreed by journalists' unions and publishers. Such qualified journalists should be recognised as such in collective agreements. Employers accept that is the duty of the media in general and the employer in particular to reflect the society it serves.




8.1 The EFJ/IFJ believes the process of monopolisation at a national level and transnational concentration of media ownership reduces the number of independent sources of information available to the public and is, therefore, a threat to media diversity and pluralism.


8.2 Therefore, legislation on concentration of ownership at European level should:

?  Harmonise national laws governing the concentration of media ownership at the highest level;

?  Restrict the extension of media groups' activities through merger, anti-trust and cross-ownership legislation;

?  Regulate the activities of Community-based media groups in the accession countries;

?  Oblige transnational media enterprises to disclose the full extent of their global holdings in each of the countries in which they operate;

?  Limit concentration of media ownership;

?  Divest existing media properties where there are unacceptable levels of concentration.




9.1 Journalists must have the right to act according to their conscience in the exercise of journalism. In case of fundamental change in the political, philosophical or religious line of the employer, a journalist may put an end to his or her contract, without notice, and be paid compensation equivalent to what he or she would have received in case of termination of his or her contract by the employer.


9.2 No journalist should be directed by an employer or any person acting on behalf of the employer to commit any act or thing that the journalist believes would breach his or her professional ethics, whether defined by a code of ethics adopted by journalists collected at national level or that would infringe the international Code of Principles for the Conduct of Journalism as adopted by the EFJ/IFJ. No journalist can be disciplined in any way for asserting his or her rights to act according their conscience.


Brussels, January 2003.



V. Press Clippings of press conference, November 7, 2004

(print version only)



VI. Bibliography




* IFJ Warns Europe of Dangers in New Italian Media Laws; 24/07/2003



* World Journalists Back Strike by Italian Press: “A National Crisis, With Global Consequences” -06/06/2003



* EFJ 2003: Resolution on Freedom of Information, Pluralism and Public Service Broadcasting in Europe. On  “Public Broacasting Campaign for All” Campaign



* Reporters sans frontières:



* BBC Online:



* European Journalism Centre



* Globalpolicy.org


1 On 25 November 2003, the EP Parliamentary Committee on Citizens' Freedoms and Rights, Justice and Home Affairs nominated Ms Boogerd-Quaak, MEP, as a rapporteur on this issue.

2 In October 1984, officials in several Italian cities shut down his television stations for broadcasting illegally. This spelled potential disaster for the heavily indebted Fininvest group. Within days, Craxi, the then Socialist Prime Minister, signed a decree that allowed Mr Berlusconi’s stations to stay on air. After some parliamentary tussles, this decree became law. Craxi’s decree did nothing to prevent concentration of ownership. But neither did the Mammi law (named after Oscar Mammi, the telecoms minister), passed in 1990. Tailor-made to suit Mr Berlusconi with his three national networks, it said that no single group could own more than three out of the 12 networks that would be licensed. The coalition government of the day, which depended heavily on Craxi’s Socialist Party, pushed through this controversial measure despite the resignation of five ministers in protest. In effect, this law entrenched the duopoly between Mediaset and RAI.


3 Definition of relevant market (EU legislation)(http://europa.eu.int/scadplus/leg/en/lvb/l26073.htm)

The relevant market combines the product market and the geographic market, defined as follows:

* a relevant product market comprises all those products and/or services which are regarded as interchangeable or substitutable by the consumer by reason of the products' characteristics, their prices and their intended use;

* a relevant geographic market comprises the area in which the firms concerned are involved in the supply of products or services and in which the conditions of competition are sufficiently homogeneous


4 Mediaset, together with RAI, control almost completely the domestic television market, which explains why the term ‘duopoly’ is currently used.

5 With a circulation of 650,000, La Repubblica is the second biggest daily. Owned by Carlo de Bendetti, its political position is centre-left.

6 The 230,000 circulation Il Giornale openly supports the government.

7 Michele Santoro’s programme “Sciusià” was taken off in July 2002 after he had openly criticed Berlusconi as well as on the ‘Biagi affair’ itself.




European Federation of Journalists                     Report of  Mission to Italy, November 6-8, 2003



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