Venice documentary attacks Berlusconi media empire

Fri Sep 4, 2009 10:50am EDT
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By Gabriella Podimane

VENICE (Reuters) - Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's grip on television in Italy is at the heart of "Videocracy," a new documentary looking at how his media empire has shaped information and culture in the country over 30 years.

Screened at the Venice film festival this week, "Videocracy" mixes images of scantily clad showgirls -- a regular feature on Italian television -- with news reels of Berlusconi's public appearances and interviews with real or aspiring TV celebrities.

For director Erik Gandini, who was born and brought up in Italy but now lives in Sweden, the message is clear: Italy is now a "TV-republic," embodied by Berlusconi, where entertainment and politics are intertwined.

One example of that, he says, is that a former showgirl is now Berlusconi's Equal Opportunities Minister.

"Videocracy" points to the pervasiveness of television in Italian life, which makes it in the eyes of many -- particularly young people -- a launching pad to instant fame and money.

"You get a picture of a generation which is very very obsessed by brands, by their own appearance, not interested in politics so much, nor in the world," Gandini told Reuters in an interview.

"You have a country which is culturally caught in a bubble of values which are what I call a videocracy, where image is everything," he added.

With 80 percent of Italians using their TV sets as their prime source of information, the power of television is vastly increased by the control Berlusconi exerts over it, says Gandini.   Continued...

<p>Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi speaks during the "Milano Med Forum 2009", in downtown Milan July 20, 2009. REUTERS/Alessandro Garofalo</p>