Following the recent outburst of protest on the Internet against the payment of TV license fees for company computers, RAI, Italy’s National Public Service Broadcaster has clarified that the request for payment did not refer to to the mere ownership of a personal computer connected to the Internet, nor to the ownership of tablets and smartphones.
According to reports, demands for payment sent out by the RAI Licence Fee Department only refer to the special license fee due in cases in which computers are used as televisions (digital signage), it being understood that the special fee is not to be paid in cases where companies, corporations and public bodies have already paid licence fees for the ownership of one or more televisions.
The RAI management stresses that the application of this tax in Italy is thus limited to “a much more specific use of computers than that applied for broadcasters by other European countries, which in their license fee requests have listed as equipment subject to the fee not only televisions, but all equipment which is capable of receiving or can be adapted to receive radio and television signals, such as computers connected to the Internet, tablets and smartphones.”
A recent judgment by the Italian Supreme Court has stated the obligation to blur out the faces of beggars in photos accompanying articles related to social problems.
For this reason, the case of a Rumanian woman who brought a case of libel against a Trento newspaper for publishing a picture of her with the caption “a beggar at work in the historic centre of Trento” has been referred for re-examination. The photo accompanied an article with the title ” Trento citizens and the security package” which reported on the opinions of a number of Trento citizens concerning the usefulness of setting up vigilante patrols to prevent and discourage phenomena such as prostitution, vandalism and begging.
The judgment of the Court of Bolzano had stated that no case of libel could be attached to the simple combination of text to a neutral photograph, which merely served to draw attention to the topic of the article.
Nevertheless, the Supreme Court considered that such reasoning was not entirely devoid of logical flaws. In fact, since collective consciousness places beggars on one of the lowest rungs of the social scale, it is natural that those who are forced by the hardships of life to beg, would feel mortified and humiliated in being branded as beggars.
The Court also found that in the offending article mention was made of a relationship between the phenomenon of begging in the Trento city centre and a criminal organization based outside the province of Trento itself. The journalist’s condemnation of the phenomenon was therefore clear and for this reason, the photograph could not be considered neutral since, according to the Court, the reader was led to identify the person in the photo with one of the problems to be stamped out in order to ensure life in the city is conducted in a peaceful fashion.
The Supreme Court judges also wished to mention that when for reasons of satisfying the requirements of news reporting it is necessary to show photographs of people involved in activities attracting seriously negative public opinion, blurring out the image is common and correct practice in order that creating a connection between the activity itself and any specific person should be avoided.
The case was therefore referred back to the Court of Bolzano for re-examination.
There is an ever growing protest in Italy against Sky Italia’s decision to exclude from its digital TV package Current TV, the TV channel and website founded by Al Gore in 2005 which is famous for hosting alternative news video content compiled by viewers.
The protest campaign was launched on the Current website on a page which invites all supporters to send emails to Tom Mockeridge, managing director of Sky Italia, demanding a reversal of the decision to close the channel. In the space of a few days the protest spread on Facebook, Twitter and many online and offline magazines, involving an ever growing number of citizens concerned that there might be ideological reasons behind Sky’s decision.
In fact, according to Current TV’s top management, failure to renew the contract may indeed be connected to reasons of a political nature. Current’s mission might be in opposition to the “ideological agenda” of News Corporation, the international group which seeks political power in whatever country it operates in. This is what Al gore stated in a recent interview with the Guardian, in which the former US presidential candidate accused News Corp of “an abuse of power”. According to Gore, the reason behind the decision to close Current TV is to be found in the hiring of Keith Olbermann, a US left-leaning commentator often critical of News Corp, who has been invited to present one of the channel’s new programmes.
Referring more directly to the Italian case, Gore argued that Current TV’s position, which has often been critical of the Italian government and of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi (reaching its highest level with “Citizen Berlusconi” a documentary about the power of the media in Italy), would clash with the strategy plans of Murdoch, whose aim is to ingratiate his company with the Italian government in order to gain advantage in negotiations for space on Italian digital terrestrial television.
Al Gore also presented this idea on Italian TV on the programme “Annozero” with Michele Santoro, the well-known linkman who had already been a guest of Current TV itself on the occasion of the programme “Rai per una notte”, a media protest event against the suspension of his show “Annozero” by the Italian public television corporation. According to Current’s top management the collaboration with Michele Santoro, well-known as an enemy of the Italian Prime Minister, adds a further point to the idea that the closing of Current TV is a “gift” for Silvio Berlusconi.
In answer to this accusation, Sky stated that the only reasons behind the decision are of a commercial nature. The satellite television broadcaster declared that the contract signed with Current in 2008 when it was included in Sky’s package, provided for automatic renewal if the channel reached its objective of an average of 4,500 viewers daily, which it failed to do. Therefore they say the decision was taken in view of the fact that in addition to failing to reach the necessary number of viewers, Current’s share also fell by 20% in the first quarter of 2011 compared to 2010.
However, according to Current, viewing figures are increasing. They say that the 2010 result was inaccurate primarily due to “Rai per una notte”. The importance of the media event created an anomalous peak in viewing figures for Current, thus giving inaccurate total viewing figures for the first quarter of 2010, in comparison to the fall registered in 2011. If this anomaly is taken out of the equation, however, the share data seems to be on the increase.
In any event, after the first protests it appears that Sky made a proposal to Current for the renewal of the contract, but that this was not accepted. In fact, the satellite broadcaster is said to have proposed to Current a contract offering a 70% cut on the previous one. However, Sky maintains that Current had asked for double compared to the agreement signed 3 years previously.
For now the agreement between Current and Sky seems to have turned into a data war measured with different criteria and not entirely transparent economic proposals. Internet commentators are divided into those who are convinced about the ideological motivations and those who find the idea of an alliance between the two rivals Murdoch and Berlusconi to be implausible.
However, the case of Current has brought fresh International attention to the Italian media situation.