Watchdog says RAI ignored rules on equal time

State broadcaster vows fairness after Berlusconi blitz

Watchdog says RAI ignored rules on equal time

Rome, December 27 - State-owned television broadcaster RAI ignored its own rules on pluralism by granting former premier Silvio Berlusconi a disproportionate amount of air time for his political campaign, a watchdog said Thursday. RAI has rules on political pluralism, meaning all parties should have fair coverage, but "the rules have been rejected for reasons that I do not know," said Sergio Zavoli, president of the parliamentary supervisory commission on RAI. He hinted that Berlusconi could be expected to try to get around the rules and added that he has asked RAI to comply with the rules. In its defence, the network said that it intends to give other politicians and political parties more attention in the run-up to the national elections set for the end of February. "In the last few days, Silvio Berlusconi asked and was granted space on a series of television and radio transmissions", the broadcaster said in a statement. Other political leaders will be "offered similar communication space," promised RAI. It and other Italian broadcasters are committed to offering Italy's major political parties relatively equal visibility under the so-called 'par condicio' or equal-time directive. In a letter to Zavoli, RAI Director-General Luigi Gubitosi said the network's directors have emphasized the importance of ensuring diversity and balance in its information. Berlusconi, who owns Italy's three biggest private television networks, has been blitzing the airwaves recently as he prepares to run for re-election in February.

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