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Last Updated:  Thursday, 13 March, 2003, 13:16 GMT
TV row strains Italian government
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi
Berlusconi is in difficulty over the RAI crisis
Splits are appearing in Italy's ruling coalition after left-wing journalist Paolo Mieli quit the chairmanship of state broadcasting company RAI.

In a statement carried by La Repubblica newspaper, the Christian Democrat Party (UDC) called on Mr Mieli to accept the post, after he turned it down on Wednesday citing "technical and political difficulties".

Another coalition partner, the Northern League, has been campaigning against Mr Mieli, criticising his alleged request for a million-euro salary and call for the reinstatement of two left-wing journalists at the channel.

Paolo Mieli
Mieli was offered the job on Friday
Mr Mieli was appointed by parliament on Friday in an attempt to head off left-wing charges that the government was attempting to monopolise the media.

The BBC's David Willey in Rome says Italy's state broadcaster, funded partly by licence fees and partly by advertising, has always been highly politicised, and top jobs are traditionally awarded to supporters of whoever happens to be in government.

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, as a media magnate, already controls large parts of Italy's press, TV and radio, and has been accused of conflict of interest between his public and business roles.

'Serious episode

"Part of the ruling coalition has demonstrated a depressing political short-sightedness," UDC leader Marco Follini was quoted on Wednesday as saying of the situation in which Mr Mieli felt forced to turn down the post.

Former Prime Minister Massimo D'Alema, chairman of the opposition Democrats of the Left, said: "It is another serious episode showing this right's intolerance and lack of democratic culture.

"The aggression against him has cancelled what the speakers of parliament had accomplished with their balanced and brave choice."


Anti-semitic graffiti
The graffiti urged Mieli to get out of RAI
But the Northern League's Alessandro Ce said Mr Mieli should have gone further.

"Seeing the outcome, Paolo Mieli would have made a much better showing by immediately giving up the post of Rai board member," he said.

The row was compounded by the discovery over the weekend of anti-semitic graffiti on the front of RAI's Milan headquarters, together with the insignia of a neo-fascist group.

"RAI for Italians. Not to the Jews. Mieli get out," it read.

Mr Berlusconi offered his support to the chairman-elect, describing the graffiti as "ignoble and intolerable".

Mr Mieli, who is Jewish, also received the backing of European Commission President Romano Prodi.

But Northern League leader Umberto Bossi described the incident as a "put-up job" organised by the left to win favour for Mr Mieli.

And the right-wing daily Il Tempo wrote in an editorial on Sunday that Italian TV was being dominated by "non-Catholic culture and sensibility".

New chaos at Italian state TV
11 Mar 03 |  Europe
Italy outraged by 'trash TV' attack
20 Jan 03 |  Entertainment
Memories of mamma RAI
25 Feb 02 |  Europe

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