Watchdog fines TV channels for pro-Berlusconi bias
May 24th, 2011 - 16:39 UTC
by Andy Sennitt.

Five Italian television programmes have been fined for allegedly violating election rules by allowing prime minister Silvio Berlusconi to rally voters on air ahead of a second round of local polls without including opposition views. Italy’s communications regulator Agcom slapped fines ranging from 100,000 to 258,230 euros on two of Italy’s public broadcaster RAI’s news programmes and three of Mr Berlusconi’s private Mediaset news bulletins.?Mediaset has said it plans to appeal the fines.

“The authority reaffirms the duty for balanced and complete information until the end of the election campaign,” Agcom said in the statement. In a series of interviews aired last Friday, Mr Berlusconi sought to mobilise his centre-right political base for the mayoral run-offs being held this weekend in many Italian cities, branding the centre-left opposition as “extremist”.

In the first round of voting in mayoral elections on 15-16 May, Mr Berlusconi’s People of Freedom party (PdL) and its Northern League coalition partner took a drubbing in several cities including the financial capital Milan, Mr Berlusconi’s home town.

Agcom has previously sent complaints about pro-government bias to several popular news programmes broadcast on RAI and Mediaset networks. Mr Berlusconi’s domination of Italian broadcasting through his ownership of three out of four private national TV networks and his influence as prime minister of RAI is a frequent subject of controversy.