Political stability is not one of Italy`s strong points. Left-wing governments succeed right-wing governments and vice versa. Since World War II, the average lifetime of Italian governments has barely exceeded one year. Ordinary Italians put very little trust in their political leaders and they are forced to mistrust their national media as well. Politics and media are accepted to be run by the same people. Former and possibly future president Silvio Berlusconi, owner of three TV stations, is a good example of the close links between media and politics. How do Italians deal with an entire press system that does not even pretend to be independent?
Italian media produce almost 200 daily newspapers. Right-wing, left-wing, local, national: there`s a flavour for everybody. Even those who only like sports are well served in Italy, with the pink-paged Gazetta dello Sport as their bible. It is most common for people to read newspapers in the morning. They typically have a glance at the articles that seem most interesting while enjoying their breakfast coffee in a bar. News in print tends to become obsolete throughout the day. Even the Corriere della Sera (The Evening Courier) appears in the morning, and so do leading alternatives like La Repubblica and Il Messagero
Piedro (24) thinks the internet is the best way to have access to reliable news:
The obvious relation between media and politics means that newspapers should be read in a slightly different way than in for example Finland. Gemma (24) reads the paper more because she likes reading than for the sake of being informed about what`s going on. `I read Il Mattino, a local Naples newspaper, in the morning. Then sometimes La Republicca during the day if I have the time. Both newspapers are slightly left-wing, which reflects my political preference.`
Fabio (19) is also aware that politics can`t be seen separately from politics. `For that reason, I only read sports news or Cronicas, the pieces of small news. They do not relate to policies or major news files, they just quickly describe daily life events, about for example shops getting robbed, or people getting killed. As a fanatic basketball player, Fabio also accesses the websites tuttobasket.it and basketcafe.it on a regular basis.
Piedro (24, photo) tells me that anybody who wished to be well-informed should always try to have several news sources. `Right-wing newspapers disclose scandals of left-wing politicians and vice versa. The first page of the newspaper is usually the most reliable part. It focuses on news that has no way around it. For everything else, il capo, the chief editor of the newspaper, can freely decide which coverage to feature in the newspaper. His links with politics or business decide which articles can be published and which will not. Journalists are expected to write in accordance with the general ideas of the chief editor for whom they are writing. Failing to do so will quickly get them fired.`
Piedro explains that internet is a good alternative for Italians who want to access unbiased news sources. Many young people access the Italian versions of Google and Yahoo, or go straight to the Italian Press Agency ANSA`s website. TGcom and Libero.it can also count on big audiences.
While newspapers provide little room for people with deviant ideas, the internet is the best location to ventilate their ideas. Piedro frequently consults the popular web log of actor, writer, comedian and journalist Beppe Grillo, who provides satirical but accurate coverage of news that is left aside by the big newspapers.
`Beppe Grillo often comes up with statistics that make it inevitable for politicians to disregard problems. He revealed scandals about diary manufacturers who used lead tubes and thus delivered contaminated milk to supermarkets. Not everybody likes Beppe Grillo or agrees with his points of view, but at least he provides refreshing view on the news. Unlike the newspaper bosses, he is not financially dependent on the big companies or politicians`, Piedro says.
Internet is also the best way to access international news. Little of that reaches Italy via conventional channels. Andrea (29) tells that the marriage of French president Sarkozy with Carla Bruni makes it to Italian newspapers, but most other international news items are granted very little coverage. Since the average Italian is not very good at foreign languages, international news channels like CNN, Al Jazeera and Euronews are well-known but little-watched.
Local news, on the other hand, does get a lot of attention. TV Station TG3 provides plenty of local news and many people but newspapers that have insertions for local news. Daniela (44) reads Il giornale de Sicilia every day: `It allows local readers to send in letters, sometimes accompanied by photographs. Space in the newspaper is distributed over the opinions of politicians and inhabitants, which makes the newspaper at least seem to be more independent.`
Italy has three national state channels (RAI 1, RAI 2, RAI 3), which are paid for by the government and usually bring news that presents the government in a positive way. Three other main channels are owned by Silvio Berlusconi, who may well become the next president of Italy. With a left-ish government in power, television rights are fairly balanced between the current government and the right-wing channels run by Berlusconi. If he manages to become president, again, he will have six channels under his direct control ? a situation that few Italians feel comfortable with.
A change of government also implies a change in TV offer. Programs may not be subject to immediate changes, but journalists may be promoted or fired depending of who is in charge. One such example: the late Enzo Piagi, a then experienced and well-respected journalist, was laid off after having been too critical with then-president Berlusconi.
News and politics in Italy are like soap operas in other countries. They provide a steady stream of scandals, intrigues and conspiracies. As a result, lots of TV time is spent on politics and discussion programs. They feature politicians debating with each other, with experts, with normal people. Everybody is a pop star in Italy, or at least they pretend to be. Politicians are no exception to that rule. Being involved in scandals at least helps them direct attention to their person.
In spite of all the dirt flying around, the best and only way of getting a complete view on the news is by reading newspapers in the morning, reading internet sites during the day and watching television news in the evening. Sources are abundant, the question is: who to believe?
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