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Italy’s Delta Force

Although not directly comparable to the legendary American special forces unit of the same name, Italy’s delta force did specialise in clandestine operations by all accounts. It did not battle international terrorists or despotic regimes, though. In actual fact it probably did the opposite.

Some in Italy would argue that Italy’s delta force was employed to buoy up a certain, more or less, despotic regime – that of one Silvio Berlusconi.

Italy’s politicians seem to regard Italy’s state television network as the best means to reach and control the hearts and minds of Italy’s population.

First, a little background on Italy’s has a state television network.  The network goes by the name of Radio Televisione Italiana which generally is abbreviated to RAI. There are three free-to-air channels in Italy which all Italian households can receive provided they have either an antenna or one of the newfangled digital TV set top boxes or a television which can directly receive the digital signals which are  being transmitted almost everywhere in Italy.

Why RAI1 and RAI2?

The RAI channels are RAI1, RAI2 and RAI3. RAI 1 and RAI 2 are so similar it is difficult to understand just why they exist – one would be more than enough.

RAI 3, on the other hand, is more watchable. It generally broadcasts programmes which are aimed at an educated, cultured, and reputably left-wing target. There were also the excellent and very well done Report documentaries, which may be banned.

Towing the Berlusconi Line

During Berlusconi’s reign, the RAI1 news programmes; especially the 8:00pm editions; have gained a reputation for towing the Berlusconi line rather too fervently, with the boss of the RAI1 news service widely believed to be a Berlusconi man. Remember that virtually all the rest of Italy’s free to air TV is under the control of the Berlusconi family and the Berlusconi channels are, understandably, friendly towards their paymasters.

The RAI2 news is similar to RAI1, but seeing as its TG2 news programme is not right at prime time – it starts at 8:30pm, and does not attract the same audience as its RAI1 equivalent, the politically-directed editorial line is less evident. However, RAI2’s TG2 news items which do not show the Berlusconi government in a particularly good light are either ignored or brief, and at times it appears to me that they are reported by newsreaders who speak at warp speed. This may be done to ensure bad news takes up as little air-time as possible, or, possibly, this tactic is used to ensure that the news items are difficult to follow.

Banality Rules

More and more often nowadays, both RAI1 and RAI2 present news which is so banal, one wonders why they bother.

Audience numbers for the RAI1 TG1 news have been falling and the credibility of the news service has been called into question – especially after it broadcast news items which were blatantly Berlusconi-friendly.

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One such incident was the reporting of the Mills case in which Berlusconi is accused of bribing an English lawyer to provide favourable testimonies in court cases. The prime time RAI1 news reported that Berlusconi had been absolved (YouTube video in Italian), whereas in fact, the case had been brought to an end by a statutory time limit – which is not the same as an aquittal. The Mills reporting incident caused widespread consternation in Italy and many suspected that the Mills news had been manipulated.

RAI – the Propaganda Tool

Unlike the government controlled British Broadcasting Corporation which somehow manages to remain both publicly funded and independent of the UK’s government, Italy’s RAI is regarded as being a prime propaganda tool by both left and right leaning Italian governments and news and other programming seems to be deliberately skewed in favour of the government in power at the time.

The RAI1 TG1 news, the 8 ‘o’ clock evening edition of which was watched by large numbers of Italians, is considered to be highly influential politically. Could this be the reason why someone friendly to Berlusconi was chosen to be this news programme’s boss?

In fact Silvio Berlusconi has made it clear that he expects RAI channels to be pro-government. This is possibly why a string of unfriendly programmes – Annozero (RAI2), Ballarò (RAI3), Che Tempo Fa? (RAI3) and Report (RAI3) have been shut down or are facing uncertain futures.

Basically, Berlusconi appears to believe the RAI channels should be at the beck and call of his government, which means that any programme which shows him or his party in a bad light is most unwelcome and to be removed from the airwaves. Well, the delta force mentioned before was allegedly formed to bring RAI firmly to heel, by hook or by crook.

Uncomplimentary Documentaries Banned

The delta structure, as it is being called in Italy’s press, allegedly ensured that the right people were appointed to the right jobs, while at the same time making concerted efforts to block the appointment of those considered ‘unfriendly’ to the current government and by attempting to prevent the renewal of the employment contracts of certain ‘unfriendly’ TV people. All very Machiavellian.

Investigations into the activities of Italy’s delta force are still under way, along with inquiries into the so-called P3 and P4 corruption rings.

Clientelism Leads to Incompetence

But why this desperate need to take control? Well, one theory might be that after years of political clientelism in Italy, during which time many appointments have been made on the basis of ‘friendships’ instead of skills and competence, there have been so many illicit acts, muck-ups and ill-thought out decisions, that odd organisations like the delta ‘club’ have been formed to cover up all the skulduggery and incompetence.

If, on the other hand, people had been appointed on the basis of merit, then covert underground organisations such as the P2, P3, P4 and delta structure simply would not have been necessary. Italy, alas, does not seem to have cottoned on to this, although, maybe, finally, it is. Better late than never.

Gagging the TV image from Wikipedia.

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