Rai towards closure of Rai Storia. The protest: unacceptable

According to some news sources, Rai is about to close Rai Storia (but also Rai Sport). Protests MP Michele Anzaldi: "unacceptable. The government will not allow it."

“Rai not only ignores Minister Franceschini’s call to support culture by buying shows and cultural products, but even intends to close Rai Storia, one of the few remaining spaces of true public service. Unacceptable, the government will not allow this.” Denouncing the public television station’s intentions is MP Michele Anzaldi of Italia Viva, addressing the government directly and reminding Rai of the appeal of Cultural Heritage Minister Dario Franceschini, who after the closure of cinemas and theaters asked television stations throughout Italy to support culture by scheduling more cultural broadcasts on their channels.

In fact, rumors about the closure of Rai Storia, the Rai network dedicated to documentaries and history programs, have been chasing each other for a few days, and it seems that financial reasons are at the origin of the hypothetical closure: in practice, Rai, according to leaks in the press, is planning to merge Rai 5 and Rai Storia in order to make ends meet. This is what Il Fatto Quotidiano reported about ten days ago, according to which Rai’s ad, Fabrizio Salini, is preparing a major reorganization of public TV, which also includes the elimination of the institutional network, the English-language channel and the closure of Rai Sport. The latter would also be an unexpected decision because, despite having low share, the sports network allows minor sports fans to follow their favorite competitions in sports that are hardly seen on mainstream networks except for major events.

The hypothetical cancellation of Rai Storia has also been discussed by Aldo Grasso, who penned an editorial in Corriere della Sera last week asserting that Rai Storia is a network to be defended: “Rai Storia,” Grasso wrote, “is the last bastion behind which Viale Mazzini can justify its role as a public service,” also polemically wondering whether the quarrels of Dancing with the Stars or a program like Boss incognito are public service, and pointing out that “it is enough to take a look at the schedules of the three generalist networks to see that Rai does not differ much from a commercial TV.” TV, Grasso concluded, should constitute “a cultural asset that is now indispensable; to be protected, not sacrificed.”

At the moment, Anzaldi is the only politician taking an interest in the case, and he is also doing the same to avert the closure of Rai Sport. “If advertising falls because of the economic crisis caused by Covid,” Anzaldi wrote, “Rai will cut the costs of commercial products, external productions, mega fees, and waste such as sending 20 journalists and technicians to the U.S. for the U.S. elections, but it is not acceptable that with almost 2 billion euros of the Italians’ licence fee that comes from their electric bills, culture, sports, and information are being cut, as Salini intends to do with the plan kept hidden that has passed the BoD in recent days. There is a Service Contract that does not provide to chase commercial TV but to do public service, if Rai does not respect it it can no longer receive the canon.”

Anzaldi had also approached the chairman of the Rai Supervisory Commission, Alberto Barachini, to demand clarity from the top management of public television. “I wonder,” Anzaldi wondered referring to the closure of Rai Sport, “how the Prime Minister Conte, Economy Minister Gualtieri, Sports Minister Spadafora, the presidents of the Chambers Fico and Casellati, and the majority and opposition parties can remain silent. Is only Italia Viva really protesting against the closure of Rai Sport and the elimination of Rai’s institutional channel? Is this really an issue of interest only to the Vigilance Committee? Moreover, if these announcements were confirmed, together with the amalgamation of Rai 5 and Rai Storia and the stop of the English-language channel, we would be facing a unilateral modification by Rai of the commitments made in the Service Contract and the Concession. It would be truly unthinkable that such decisions would be made while keeping Parliament in the dark. What is Barachini waiting for to summon Salini to the Vigilance? All the more so after the request for clarification also made by the Rai Sport Cdr. The fact that after 2 days Salini has not denied appears to be a confirmation.”

Image: the horse at RAI headquarters in Viale Mazzini

Rai towards closure of Rai Storia. The protest: unacceptable
Rai towards closure of Rai Storia. The protest: unacceptable

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