We live in a time where media are very important and we see how they can change countries policy and world issues. Especially in Italy medias and their power affected the last decade events for the well-known Silvio Berlusconi, three times prime minister of Italy.
On January 3rd 1954, Italy saw its first official TV broadcasts being aired, which were handled by the State. During the years after, private citizens tried to start a private TV channel. Notheless, Parliament was not eager to accept it and the Constitutional Court pronounced itself against it. It was only in 1974, after some struggle, that private television was given a green light, even though it some restrictions. As a matter of fact, according to Sentence number 225 of 1974, there only local private tv channels were allowed. One of those was Fininvest, one of the most popular ones, which was the start of the today’s biggest private group of television channels: Mediaset. Even today, it still has the capacity to be competitive with the italian public television (RAI).
Mediaset, owned by Silvio Berlsuconi, became a very important tool from 1994 through 1995, a time when television asserted itself as a mass media organ with primary importance, as it was the main source of news for most of Italians.
As a matter of fact, ISTAT (the Italian Organ for Statistic) shows that during that time, Italy was a country with too much television use, leaving newspapers and books behind to only a minority of people.
Television changed costumes and traditions in a not marginal way, and it also changed how people think. It is a tool which can not just influence passively people, but also spread the facts it needs spread to take benefits from it.
So It is easy to conclude Television played a key role in spreading just manipulating messages. This was achieved by controlling the type of shows which were broadcasted, as well as the convenient time when they were and are broadcasted, to reach bigger audiences. A technique largely used by Berlusconi and his party Forza Italia.
Forza Italia, founded in 1994, won national elections that same year, and, as Berlusconi said, it was voted by “disoriented, political orphans and who risked being unrepresented”.
Those people felt that way due to recent political scandals, such as the “Mani pulite” or the “Tangentopoli” case. From their point of view, Giuliano Urbani’s “In Search of Good Government”, a book used as a manifest by the new-born party and which denounced corruption, political dominance and remnants of communism, portrayed the assertion of civil society and more efficient politics as a solution to fight Italy’s political illness.
The victory of this party happened in part thanks to Berlusconi’s Finivest but the new government fell a few months later, due to the left of Lega Nord, ally of Forza Italia.
From 1995, FI stood as opposition until 1999, year when it won the European Elections. Such victory would be seen again a couple of years later, when the party won the 2001 national elections.
The choice made by Berlusconi to juxtapose him as entrepreneur in television and as leader of a party created a particular situation in politics: television became a battle field where the fight for the election campaign was held.
The victories of 1999 and 2001 are now called with a neologism: videocracy, which talks about the power of television influencing elections and democracy.
In 1994, the politics of Finivest were clearly aiming to spread political ideas. Lots of shows started being broadcasted during the elections, especially in channels such as Rete 4 or Italia 1 (which are now some of the most watched tv channels in Italy).
During the campaign, Berlusconi was surely the leader who had more time to talk on tv (5 hours and half). In such hours, he presented himself as the “new man”, even if he was just replacing an empty place left by Tangentopoli scandals.
As the elections went through, some of the most famous faces declared on television that they intended to vote for Berlusconi, on Finivest channels.
But Berlusconi government, as we saw, only lasted for a few months before it fell. But that did not stop him from continuing his mediatic investements in the following years, and his patience has been rewarded.
Prior to 2001, Cape of State himself, Ciampi at the time, reported that a man who grew wealthy in unclear ways was the leader of a group determining a “media dictatorship”. According to him, the recent bills were going to give less and less possibilities for Italian population to have independent information and news.
The place that Berlusconi has had in the media is so big that he has become used to treating the population as an audience.
And the audience has become bigger , from Finivest to this point, Berlusconi has radios, newspapers, big and little magazines, the biggest Italian publishing house, Milan (a soccer team very important in the Italian Serie A) and a wealthiness which, according to Forbes, is worth around 6.5 billion of dollars.
Le Monde defined him as a second Putin, El Pais represented him as the rebirth of fascism.
So even though his current judgements have stopped him from reentering political life he is still very important because of his media power, leaving the end of his story yet to be written.