Written by Brian Welk
31 Monday 31st May 2010

Turn on a TV in Italy and you’ll find every show features half-naked women dancing along side the dopey reality show performers. That all of this is controlled by Italy’s Prime Minister and top media mogul Silvio Berlusconi is a little peculiar. For Erik Gandini, the director of Videocracy, it’s a dominating obsession that people are only beginning to notice.

Berlusconi controls 90 percent of Italian television. For the last 30 years, he’s infused TV culture with an extension of his own personality and over that time nudity and old-fashioned media traditions have become commonplace in Italy. These seem like common facts pulled from a Wikipedia page, and the film does little else to expand on the infrastructure of the Italian media empire that I’m sure few people fully understand. So forgive me when I say I’m not entirely convinced that Ricky, a TV hopeful marketing himself as Van Damme mixed with Ricky Martin, can’t find a job in the television industry solely because most young stars are attractive women that appeal to Berlusconi’s own tastes.
Videocracy paints this as being on the level of a conspiracy. It uses a sort of haunting, static style of editing, an ominous soundtrack and Gandini’s own dour narration, and even if I do fully agree that politics and the media should rarely be in the same realm of power, I may not think it terrible that Berlusconi is behind it all.



I would be more inclined to agree if the film had taken time to interview a few more subjects, preferably some experts that could analyze why this is a problem, rather than the grand total of five sources Videocracy does have. It seems to be mostly Gandini’s opinion, and as a documentary, it misses the mark of allowing the audience to be fully entrenched in the problem by portraying some hard-hitting investigation.
But I respect that this trend exists in Italy, and Gandini’s own words did a better job of expanding on Berlusconi and this obsession with image culture as a problem.
“There is so much more to Berlusconi’s power and his domination than being a Prime Minister or a political character,” Gandini said. “But I’m not as scared of him as I am of the fact that my countrymen, the people of Italy, are accepting the situation as something normal. The idea that the Prime Minister owns so much of the media and controls 90 percent of television; it’s so anachronistic. It doesn’t fit our time.”
According to Gandini, Berlusconi’s overwhelming control allows him to bury scandals that would otherwise appear on the news and hurt his reputation.
“When people say Berlusconi owns 90 percent of the television, it’s because he personally owns the commercial networks and has control over the RAI, or the State television. The chief editor of the main news program is a big supporter of Berlusconi, and none of the scandals ever make the news, so people don’t know about these things,” Gandini said.
He added there is a change in the media leadership after each election to match the new government.
After 30 years of being in power, Berlusconi has molded Italy into a country obsessed with images, and the one fact that is not highlighted in Videocracy is that 80 percent of Italians get their information from TV rather than newspapers and the Internet.  
“It’s not some kind of marginal bizarre phenomenon that you can find in every country. Italy is the scariest example of what happens when this kind of culture becomes the only culture,” Gandini said. “More than him, it’s ‘Berlusconismo’ as an attitude of culture that’s scary because this will stay after his disappearance. It’s something that is much bigger, much stronger, and much more spread out over the country over a much longer time.”


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