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Escort to appear on talk show

'Berlusconi tape' woman fans TV row

30 September, 18:19

(ANSA) - Rome, September 30 - The Italian escort who claimed headlines worldwide after taping what she said was a night with Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi is to appear for the first time on Italian state TV.

Patrizia D'Addario, 42, will be the guest Thursday of RAI state broadcaster's prime-time talk show Annozero, currently at the centre of a row about overstepping its public-service remit.

Wednesday's announcement of D'Addario's presence increased the pressure on Annozero host Michele Santoro, who has been accused of using the show as a platform for an anti-Berlusconi agenda. Deputy Communications Minister Paolo Romani said D'Addario's appearance would make the government ''even more attentive'' about whether ''this type of programme is compatible with RAI's public-service role''.

Romani reiterated that the government will quiz RAI chiefs on October 8 about whether the corporation is fulfilling its duties to the license-fee payer.

But he stressed that ''this is not censorship'' and claimed that any assessment of RAI and Annozero's content was up to the parliamentary watchdog on the broadcaster.

The head of the watchdog, distinguished former journalist Sergio Zavoli, responded by saying that some talk shows might be seen by some as favouring the opposition but ''every day there are news programmes which are certainly not backing the centre-left agenda, and have a greater penetration because they are repeated several times''.

However, Romani said RAI's new contract, which is about to be renewed, would include a clause ruling out ''grandstanding and partisan coverage''.

Media magnate Berlusconi, who in 2002 slammed Santoro and others for a ''criminal'' use of the airwaves, resulting in a five-year absence of the host, said earlier Wednesday he wasn't afraid of programmes like Annozero which ''only increase my support''.

But he is suing several Italian and European newspapers over their coverage of the D'Addario case and his estranged wife's claim that he is unwell and frequents minors like Noemi Letizia, an 18-year-old aspiring actress whose 18th birthday party he attended in May.

D'Addario, who signed autographs at the recent Venice Film Festival, has been interviewed by French, Swiss and Turkish TV several European newspapers.

But in Italy she has only appeared on Sky Italia, Rupert Murdoch's satellite channel.

Saying he wanted to fill a gap in TV coverage of the escort affair, in which D'Addario said several women were paid to attend the premier's parties, Santoro devoted his entire season-opening show to the subject last week.

News of D'Addario's invitation led Flavia Perini, editor of the rightwing party organ Il Secolo d'Italia, to pull out of the show ''out of respect for politics and women's dignity''.

Berlusconi owns Italy's three biggest commercial TV stations and his brother owns a newspaper which is leading a campaign for Italians not to pay the RAI license fee.

The premier has also been accused of influencing RAI's coverage and appointments.

He denies the charges and also claims to have no say in the line taken by his own group or his brother's newspaper. photo: D'Addario performs at disco in hometown of Bari

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