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Last Updated: Friday, 12 December, 2003, 12:20 GMT
Italians urged to switch off TVs
Television remote control
Television remote control will earn discounts
Television networks in Italy are facing a nationwide weekend walkout - not by staff, but by unhappy viewers.

Instead of spending Friday, Saturday and Sunday glued to primetime TV, Italians are being urged to go out.

The strike's organisers, campaign group Esterni, have arranged discounts at a range of venues for people who bring their remote controls with them.

Organisers say they are expecting around 400,000 people to join the strike against what they call Trash TV.

Esterni has held Viewers' Strikes in Milan for the past seven years, but this is the first national event with which they hope to show "The power of switching off".

Going out

Television is one of the principal causes of dullness and isolation, and is a drain on precious commodity of human time, according to the Esterni website,

"We want to say to people that there are better ways of spending their free time than to stay home staring at television," said spokeswoman Anna Spreafico.

Museums, restaurants, bars, theatres and galleries across Italy have signed up to entertain the striking viewers.

Other organisations are also joining in.

The Italian Environmental Fund, Italy's equivalent of the National Trust, is offering discounts or free admission to hundreds of its properties, including historic villas, museums and parks.

Italian television has come under the spotlight recently regarding who controls it.

Telethon clash

Protesters took to the streets earlier this month after the Senate backed a bill that will essentially allow Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to strengthen his hold on the media.

The bill reversed a court ruling which would have forced his Mediaset company to sell off one of its three TV stations by 1 January.

Mr Berlusconi is Italy's richest man, and as well as his three Mediaset channels - Italia 1, Rete 4 and Canale 5 - he holds political influence at the board of state broadcaster Rai.

Esterni's strike has drawn some political criticism as it coincides with Rai's Telethon to raise cash for charities ahead of Christmas.

The former Foreign Minister Susanna Agnelli, said the timing showed a "grave lack of sensibility".




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