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By | September 6, 2000

      The Italian government aims to partly privatise public broadcaster RAI, with a plan to float its two main channels now high on the agenda.

      The plan was officially discussed during an August 28 meeting between Italian Prime Minister Giuliano Amato and RAI president Roberto Zaccaria. According to the company, parts of RAI’s flagship RAI Uno channel and its more youth-oriented RAI Due channel would be placed on the Milan bourse. Both would be operated as commercial channels entirely financed by investors and advertising revenue, while RAI would retain a controlling interest. RAI’s third channel, RAI Tre, would become a public service station without any advertising and would receive the bulk of the pubcaster’s L2,531 billion (E1.31 billion) yearly licence fee revenues.

      Potential candidates are not missing – leading the pack is publishing group RCS which publishes leading Italian daily Corriere della Sera. RCS has never hidden its strong interest in the TV sector, so much that it has already forged an alliance with the pubcaster through the acquisition of a 5 per cent stake in RaiSat which produces RAI’s satellite TV channels. Also, Carlo de Benedetti who publishes the La Repubblica daily and L’Espresso weekly is aiming to take part in an eventual privatisation of RAI.

      Another subject that came up during the high level talks was the relaunch of RAI International, the international satellite TV and radio service aimed at Italian expatriates in the Americas and Asia. RAI International was launched more than six years ago, but has yet to create its own identity. Amato suggested that, following the privatisation of RAI Uno and RAI Tre, part of the license fee revenues could be diverted to RAI International. The financial boost would serve to revitalise RAI’s international service so that it could emulate BBC World or Deutsche Welle TV which are more solid in programming, more transparent in contracts and endowed with an everlasting global radio service. Zaccaria proposed that RAI International could join a bouquet of RAI channels so that it could be “sold” more easily, since it would not be an isolated voice any more. He added that the current government subsidy for RAI International is not enough to cover expenditure and that the sum is not comparable to the resources set aside by the UK and German governments for BBC World or Deutsche Welle.

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