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The BBC's David Willey in Rome
"The controversial transmissions shocked the country"
 real 28k

Thursday, 28 September, 2000, 20:26 GMT 21:26 UK
TV chiefs quit over child porn
RAI logo
The footage was shown on a prime time news slot
Three senior figures from the Italian RAI television network have resigned after the channel broadcast excerpts from seized child pornography videos.

The clips were included on a prime time news story concerning the break-up of a major international paedophile ring by Italian police.

In no country in Europe would such footage have been broadcast... at least not by a serious television

Guido Podesta, Forza Italia party
An anchorman and two assistant news directors resigned immediately, and reports say another two senior news executives have also offered to quit.

The moves followed a stormy parliamentary session in which the country's centre-right opposition called for a wider investigation into RAI's programming.

Italy's Justice Minister Piero Fassino has ordered an inquiry into how the RAI obtained the footage, and whether it had broken the law by transmitting pornographic images during prime-time news.

'Infernal' footage

"In no country in Europe would such footage have been broadcast at 8pm by a state television, and at least not by a serious television," said Guido Podesta from the opposition Forza Italia party.

Michele Bonatesta from the far-right National Alliance called the footage "infernal", amid wider demands from parents' organisations and TV watchdogs for more heads to roll.

The head of the national press federation, Paolo Serventi Longhi, condemned the broadcast, as did the head of state television, Pier Luigi Celli, who called it "incredible".

Despite the initial outrage, the images were rebroadcast on the next newscast, RAI Uno, an hour later.

Violent images

Following the repeat, RAI's news director Gad Lerner, went on the air to apologise to viewers for showing images that were not only "unwatchable, but violent."

Gad Lerner
Gad Lerner has apologised for the broadcast
One part of the footage showed a man reclining on the floor and forcing a naked boy to sit on him. The children depicted in the seized videos are believed to be mainly Russian.

Police have arrested eight Italians and three Russians so far, but say they have enough evidence to begin investigations into a further 1,700 people.

Investigators say the paedophile ring, which was organised mainly over the internet, specialised in the production and distribution of images showing children, some just 2-years-old being sexually and physically abused.

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