Feature

World Media 2007: Italy

From corruption to unemployment, Italy's problems are myriad, and its chronically unstable government will not be able to do much about any of them without thoroughgoing reform.

Can things get any worse in Italy? Well, of course they can - and it's not hard to find those who'll tell you that, despite its troubles, Italy is still the most civilised country in Europe, offering good food, beautiful cities, stunning countryside and lifestyles of relaxed sophistication.

Maybe true. But it's also undeniable that the economy has been on the skids for almost 20 years now - and nobody in the country's thoroughly discredited political system seems to be able to do anything about it. Italy's average economic growth over the past 15 years has been the slowest in the Europe Union, its transport infrastructure has fallen into dangerous disrepair and unemployment, particularly among younger age groups and in the south, remains disturbingly high. More than 40 per cent of all Italian 30- to 34-year-olds are still living with their parents.

To compound all of this, the nation has been saddled since 2001 with Silvio Berlusconi - a man who is, according to his many critics, wholly lacking in the qualities of integrity desirable in a leader - as prime minister. So the most important news of 2006 was the fact that he lost the April general election to his long-term political rival (he was previously prime minister from 1996-8), Romano Prodi.

Cosmetically, this signals a shift from right to left, and the elections also ushered in a new left-leaning president (the former Communist Party member, Giorgio Napolitano) but Prodi's majority is wafer thin. As all Italian government majorities tend to be, thanks to an over-elaborate election system.

The country's media industry, particularly TV, has always been something of a political football but that phenomenon became particularly pronounced under Berlusconi - who is, after all, Italy's most prominent media owner.

So, when he vowed to bring down the new Prodi government within weeks, it was no real surprise to find Prodi responding with punitive measures - it is proposed, for instance, that Berlusconi's Mediaset channels bear the brunt of the cost of upgrading the country's terrestrial broadcasting system from analogue to digital. The government may also introduce curbs on "tele-promotions" - a distinct and often comical facet of Italian TV where presenters will break off almost in mid-sentence to urge viewers to buy a particular brand.

This, again, will hurt Mediaset more than the state-owned RAI channels. As the infighting and squabbling descends to new lows, there can only be one real winner - the Rupert Murdoch-backed Sky Italia.

ADVERTISING EXPENDITURE
USdollars million at current prices. All years based on US$1 =
EUR 0.80 *Estimated
Total News- Maga- TV Radio Cinema Out- Online
papers zines door
2000 10,039 2,261 1,440 5,142 565 62 396 172
2001 9,707 2,123 1,479 4,980 514 71 408 133
2002 9,388 1,976 1,355 5,010 482 76 366 124
2003 9,731 1,967 1,368 5,254 547 87 381 129
2004 10,430 1,998 1,374 5,780 658 95 388 138
2005 10,726 2,051 1,435 5,933 659 87 400 160
2006 11,001 2,093 1,507 5,999 687 85 405 225
2007* 11,364 2,148 1,606 6,065 725 86 412 323
2008* 11,840 2,216 1,731 6,138 769 86 419 480
2009* 12,454 2,343 1,838 6,213 810 87 427 736

Adspend notes 1) After discounts. 2) Includes agency commission. 3)
Excludes production costs. 4) Includes some classified advertising. 5)
Magazines include newspaper supplements.

FACTFILE
HIGHEST CIRCULATING TITLES
Newspaper: Corriere della Sera (daily, 678,000 copies)
Business magazine: Milano Finanza (weekly, 117,000 copies)
Consumer magazine: Sorrisi e Canzoni (weekly listings, 1,250,000 copies)
TOP TV SHOWS
Most-watched TV programme: 55th Festival de Sanremo
Best new TV format: Reality Circus
MAJOR MEASUREMENT TOOLS
Circulation: Audipress
Readership: ADS
TV viewing: Auditel
MAIN MEDIA OWNERS
Newspapers: Publikompas, Manzoni
Magazines: Mondadori, RCS
TV: Publitalia, Sipra

THE LOWDOWN

- Media topic du jour

The realisation that Italy is falling dangerously behind the rest of Europe when it comes to digital media - fewer than 25 per cent of Italian households have broadband internet and switch-over to digital TV will not happen until after 2012.

- Reigning media guru and why

Walter Hartsarich, the president and chief executive of Aegis Media Italy, who is lionised continually by the advertising trade press.

- Media mogul to be seen dining with and why

Rupert Murdoch - the honest broker in Italy's increasingly Byzantine television marketplace.

- Car to drive: Mini Cooper.

- Phone to carry: Treo.

- Whatever you do, don't say: When's the next general election?

BUZZ MEDIA IDEA OF 2006

It's not quite in the same league as the summer games, obviously, but you can certainly argue that Italy desperately needed an event such as the Turin Winter Olympics in 2006. With the economy in the doldrums and the country's sporting reputation tarnished by corruption scandals in football (leading to the relegation of Turin's world-famous Juventus team), Italy needed some sporting glamour. This commercial, featuring the Italian skiing legend Alberto Tomba as Olympic torch-bearer, certainly achieved that.