Rome

Biased Italian election coverage, Radicals on hunger strike

TV stations urged to redress 'imbalances'

Biased Italian election coverage, Radicals on hunger strike

Rome, January 10 - Italian communications authority Agcom on Thursday called on public broadcaster RAI and on private outfits Mediaset, Telecom Italia Media and Sky Italy to immediately redress biases in their reporting on the national electoral campaign. ''There are widespread imbalances in the newscast presence of the various political forces,'' the Agcom board made known after monitoring coverage of the first two weeks of the campaign. As far as RAI is concerned, the media watchdog found its TG3 gave not enough air time to the center-right People of Freedom (PdL) and the centrist Union of Christian and Center Democrats (UDC) parties, while favoring center-left Democratic Party (PD). Both TG1 and TG3 gave outgoing Premier Mario Monti too much coverage as a candidate, while TG1 snubbed the centrist, populist and anti-corruption Italy of Values (IdV) party, the center-right Future and Freedom (FLI) party, and the regionalist Northern League, according to Agcom. Newscasts by Mediaset, which is owned by former prime minister and current PdL candidate Silvio Berlusconi, gave excessive coverage to PdL and FLI forces while under-reporting on those from Berlusconi political rivals PD, UDC and IdV. Commercial broadcaster Telecom Italia Media favored PdL over PD candidates, gave too much exposure to Monti as a candidate, and not enough air time to those from IdV, FLI and the Northern League, Agcom found. News Corp.-owned Sky satellite TV favored Monti over IdV, FLI, the Northern League, and UDC. Also on Thursday, Radical Party leaders said in a communique that they will go on hunger strike beginning at midnight on January 11 over RAI's lack of coverage of their electoral ticket, which is called Amnesty, Justice and Freedom and which focuses on prison reform. ''While international jurisdictions continue condemning the Italian Republic for violating the human rights of its residents... citizens are still being prevented from knowing the objectives and the reasons behind Amnesty, Justice and Freedom, which as of Christmas 2005, has gathered support from the country's top institutional, scientific, social and religious authorities,'' the communique said.

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