Part 1: Frontline Club discusses Italian press after Berlusconi

Watch the event here.

By Will Turvill

The Frontline Club last night hosted a lively and informative discussion on what the future might hold for Italian media in the post-Berlusconi era.

The event was hosted by BBC Radio 4 presenter Steve Hewlett who was joined on the panel by four Italians and an Anglo-Italian lecturer from the London School of Economics.

First attempting to determine the state of the media prior to Silvio Berlusconi’s resignation in November, Paolo Mancini, professor at the University of Perugia, claimed the common belief about the Prime Minister’s control is overstated:

 “There is a common wisdom that Italy does not have a free press – but it does,” he said. “I’m not a fan of Berlusconi, but I don’t think he controlled the media fully.”

In agreement with him was University of Milan academic Gianpietro Mazzoleni, whose research interests lie in media policies and political communication:

 “I share [Mancini’s] scepticism about this common knowledge. He tried to limit the freedom of this media, yes, but he did not succeed.”

“Of course Berlusconi didn’t control everything,” said the LSE’s Damian Tambini, who suggested that host Hewlett had taken the wrong approach to the issue:

“The more interesting question for us to answer,” Tambini proposed, “is did he control too much? The answer is yes.”

Marco Niada interjected that the former Prime Minister’s fall came not only due to the “eurocrisis”, but because he failed to take control of all the media:

“He is unable to control new forms of media,” said Niada, a former London bureau chief of the political and financial Italian daily Il Sole 24 Ore. “He started to be undermined by new media – social networking defeated Berlusconi.”

Although the panel was in agreement that Berlusconi would be unlikely to return to the strength he once was, none could say exactly what the future might hold for the media under his replacement Mario Monti.

“Italy has a new government,” said ANSA journalist Mattia Bernado Bagnoli, “We are only now starting to appreciate how things work in a normal country.”