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Last Updated:  Tuesday, 4 March, 2003, 02:53 GMT
Italy aims to end broadcast crisis

By David Willey
BBC Rome correspondent

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi
Berlusconi has been accused of conflict of interest

The speakers of both houses of the Italian parliament are due to nominate a new board of management for the state broadcasting company, RAI, on Tuesday.

Italy's state broadcaster, funded partly by licence fees and partly by advertising, has always been highly politicised.

Top jobs are traditionally awarded to supporters of whoever happens to be in government.

For months now, Italian state television, whose independence is supposed to be guaranteed by law, has been in a state of crisis.

Several board members resigned after allegations that media magnate and Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is hoping to destabilise his main TV competitor.

The basic problem is that Mr Berlusconi has failed to resolve the conflict of interest between his public and business roles.

Crisis point

The crisis came to a head last week with the resignation of the chairman of the board, Antonio Baldassare.

RAI logo

His successor and a new five-strong board are due to be chosen on Tuesday by the speakers of both houses of parliament.

However it is still uncertain whether they will succeed in finding compromise candidates in the highly-charged atmosphere of mutual recrimination between government and opposition over broadcasting and information policy.

RAI's outgoing board of governors had approved a proposal to move the headquarters of one state TV channel to Milan from Rome, a gift to one of Mr Berlusconi's key political allies, the right-wing Northern League party.

This aroused howls of protest from the opposition, who accused Mr Berlusconi of failing to respect the independence of the state broadcaster.

There are also proposals on the table to privatise RAI, which is in deep financial crisis with a falling audience share.

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