Thursday, September 29, 2005

Big Brother Berlusconi

Italy's new Internet laws take a turn for the Facist

Even at public internet terminals, you have to let it snap a photo of your passport before you can use it.
At public internet terminals in Italy, you have to hold up your passport and let it snap a photo of your vital info before you can log on.
You think Bush has got the U.S. press well tamed (Katrina outrage notwithstanding)? He's got nothing on Silvio Berlusconi, Italy's wily master of corporate greed-turned-Prime Minster.

Berlusconi: The one-man media empire (and thoroughly corrupt Prime Minister)

Back when he got his country's top job, Berlusconi refused calls to divest himself of some his businesses, claming to see no conflict of interest between his companies' holdings and the greater good of serving his country.

No conflict of interest? Before he was P.M., this media mogul was Italy's Ted Turner, Rupert Murdoch, and Disney Corp. all rolled into one.

Italy, you see, has seven main national television channels: the three state-run RAI networks—inventively named, in the great tradition of the BBC, RAI 1, RAI 2, and RAI 3—the three private channels owned by Mediaset—Italia 1, Rete 4, and Canale 5—and tiny little Telemontecarlo, which a few years ago, apparently feeling left out of the number club, re-branded itself as "La 7."

Two guesses as to who owns Mediaset. I'll give you a hint. It's the same man who now, as Prime Minster, has direct control over the three RAI stations as well.

Yep, Sivlio Berlusconi personally controls a whopping his 98% share of Italy's national television market.

Did I mention he also happens to own the nation's largest publishing house, and as a sideline publishes several of the country's most widely-circulated daily newspapers?

Well, apparently this near-lock on the flow of information in Italy wasn't enough for old Silvio. I can only imagine him sighing with envy over the kind of control exercised by Kim Jong-il in North Korea. Which is why, this fall, Silvio has set his sights on the last great bastion of information available in Italy: the Internet.