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Last Updated: Thursday, 20 November, 2003, 21:05 GMT
Italian TV satire suspended
By Irene Peroni
BBC Monitoring

Italian comedienne Sabina Guzzanti predicted her new show would be pulled from TV before it even went on air.

Guzzanti as Silvio Berlusconi
Guzzanti: When politicians tell jokes, comedians get serious
"Who told you I will allow this programme to be shown?" she said in a trailer, disguised as Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

"There are plenty of days left from now to 16 November, and we will certainly find many opportunities to suspend it."

In fact, the first episode of the show was broadcast as scheduled - setting a new late-night audience record of two million viewers.

But the five remaining episodes have indeed been suspended following a suit for defamation from Silvio Berlusconi's Mediaset TV network.


About 100 centre-left MPs on Thursday signed a petition calling on state-owned Rai TV to rethink its decision to halt the broadcasts.

Italy ranks 53rd in a worldwide index of media freedom, after Benin, Ghana and Bolivia
Sabina Guzzanti
Ms Guzzanti, meanwhile, has said she is ready to re-enact the shows in a public place big enough to hold "the scores of people who have sent us messages of solidarity".

Many Italians believe that Berlusconi himself might be behind the decision to scrap the programme.

In the first episode of show - called "RaiOt (as in the English word Riot) - weapons of mass distraction" - Ms Guzzanti was scathing in her satire.

"Nowadays the comedians have to say serious things... on the other hand, if you have a prime minister who tells jokes, what else can you do?" she said Guzzanti, dressed up as Uma Thurman in "Kill Bill".

Swinging a bloody sabre, she gave a colourful summary of the premier's career to date..

"Italy ranks 53rd in a worldwide index of media freedom, after Benin, Ghana and Bolivia", she said.

"Did you hear anything about it in the news bulletins? No. But then again, if you had we would not rank 53rd, would we?"

Recording continues

Ferdinando Adornato, the chairman of the Lower House Culture Committee and an MP with Berlusconi's Forza Italia, said he thought she had gone too far.

Guzzanti as Lucia Annunziata
Rai chief Lucia Annunziata was the object of a well-crafted imitation
"Personally, I always watch her with great pleasure," he said.

"But she, and professionals like her, must understand that there is a limit of civility that cannot be overstepped, and first and foremost that satire cannot become a disguise for a political message."

Rai Chairwoman Lucia Annunziata has tried to play down the controversy and given reassurances that the rest of the programme will be recorded as scheduled, pre-viewed and broadcast later on.

"It is necessary to safeguard Rai from further legal disputes without interfering with the programme's content and editorial line," said Ms Annunziata, who was herself the object of one of Guzzanti's most well-crafted imitations.

This is not the first time that popular TV personalities have disappeared from the airwaves: Michele Santoro and Enzo Biagi, two renowned journalists, as well as talk-show host Michele Luttazzi, had their programmes axed under the current government.

Closing the first episode of RaiOt, Guzzanti said: "See you next Sunday - perhaps".

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