In Italy, Rai shaken by the political takeover


“Tele-Meloni”. This is the nickname that the Italian opposition press has given to Rai, the public audiovisual group. According to her, the government of Georgia Meloni took over the country’s…

In Italy, Rai shaken by the political takeover

In Italy, Rai shaken by the political takeover

“Tele-Meloni”. This is the nickname that the Italian opposition press has given to Rai, the public audiovisual group. According to her, the government of Georgia Meloni took over the country’s “first cultural enterprise”. A juggernaut of 5 general television channels, 8 thematic channels and 3 national radio stations. A group employing nearly 13,000 employees including 1,760 journalists.

In a country where the aging population remains faithful to television as the main source of information, the control of Rai has certainly always been essential for the political world. Especially since it still occupies first place on transalpine screens with 36.7% market share. On the other hand, it is on the second place of the podium with regard to advertising revenue. A market which in 2022 represented more than 3.5 billion euros, down more than 5% over one year. Its competitor, the private Mediaset group, takes the lion’s share with nearly 2 billion euros, down 3.2%. RAI’s revenues fell by 7.5% to approach 704 million euros.


Roberto Sergio has been appointed managing director and Giampaolo Rossi, a close friend of Giorgia Meloni, has joined the general management. Appointments that came in the wake of the resignation of Carlo Fuortes. In office for less than two years, the former managing director justified his departure by the pressure exerted on him by his supervisory authorities, saying that he refused changes in editorial line and programming that he “does not consider in the interests of Rai”.

The government has just placed its pawns in key positions within the company. Some deplore the traditional “lottizzazione” which allows parties in Italy to share public service channels. But the current power leaves only crumbs to the opposition and makes appointments that meet more criteria of loyalty than competence. A situation that causes “permanent strategic distractions” preventing the company from modernizing and considering an ambitious digital strategy, says François Godard, at Enders Analysis. This “weakens the entire Italian audiovisual ecosystem”, he notes.

The danger of a takeover

Since the reform wanted by Matteo Renzi in 2015, the government has more weight in the appointment of company directors. At the same time, the directions specific to each channel have been removed. A choice similar to other public audiovisual groups in Europe. But some employees fear that this decision will lead to editorial choices that are too concentrated in a few hands and constitute a threat to pluralism. “The time has come for a new storytelling,” wrote Managing Director Roberto Sergio in a letter to employees.

Cascading resignations

Departures are multiplying, in particular Fabio Fazio, star presenter of the program “Che tempo che fa”. Some see it as an opportunity to save money: his program costs 450,000 euros per evening, according to the Italian press. But for others, his departure is a sign of a fragile company that fails to align itself with effective management methods. Fazio’s shows generate both strong audiences and big advertising revenue, and attract guests of international stature (Pope Francis, Emmanuel Macron, Barack Obama, etc.).

“This will weaken Rai editorially and create uncertainty vis-à-vis the audiences, deplores Roberto Laganà independent member of its board of directors. There are various bills to reform Rai but no real political will to see them through. Power, whatever it is, does not want to relinquish control. There is no real strategy to modernize the company, its management, renew the offer…” And any erosion of Rai’s audience share and advertising revenue would do the business of its long-standing rival, Mediaset, the audiovisual giant of Silvio Berlusconi and his family.

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