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Anchor makes political waves by quitting flagship show

Busi unhappy with allegedly pro-government editorial line

21 May, 17:35
Anchor makes political waves by quitting flagship show (ANSA) - Rome, May 21 - Italian anchor Maria Luisa Busi made political waves on Friday when she quit state broadcaster RAI's flagship evening TG1 news show in protest at its allegedly pro-government editorial line.

Busi gave her reasons for withdrawing in a letter pinned to the editorial notice board after a series of clashes with TG1 editor Augusto Minzolini, who was reportedly hand-picked for the job by Premier Silvio Berlusconi last year.

"All our solidarity goes to Maria Luisa Busi, a great professional and the umpteenth victim of an abuse of power by the mercenaries who answer to the orders of (Berlusconi's Rome residence) Palazzo Grazioli," said Antonio Di Pietro, the leader of the Italy of Values opposition party.

"What's happening at RAI is unacceptable," he added, claiming that Busi's move comes after several other RAI reporters had been marginalised.

"Upstanding journalists are being mortified and penalised to make way for sheep controlled from Palazzo Grazioli." Government supporters, however, suggested Busi was unhappy at the balance they say Minzolini has brought to the show's political reporting.

"I express my solidarity with Minzolini and the majority of the TG1 reporters, who had to suffer a surreal sermon from Maria Luisa Busi today," said Daniele Capezzone, the spokesman for Berlusconi's centre-right People of Freedom (PdL) party.

"This protagonism from someone who feels untouchable is unacceptable to those who pay the RAI licence fee and had to put up with biased reporting in the Left's favour for years without it upsetting Busi.

"Today TG1 is being rewarded in the ratings and maybe someone doesn't like it".

The show and its main rival on Berlusconi's Mediaset network, TG5, were fined for "greatly" under-reporting the Democratic Party, the main opposition group, in favour of the PdL in the run-up to March's regional elections.

TG1's editorial committee said Busi's unprecedented gesture was a "call for reflection" as it expressed the unease of "part of the editorial team about the direction Augusto Minzolini has made TG1 take." Minzolini, who is under investigation with Berlusconi on suspicion of trying to pull the plug on a purportedly government-hostile talk show on RAI, rejected accusations that he was pro-Berlusconi.

"My news programme has never been biased," he told ANSA. "I have always given voice to everyone and the ratings vouch for me. The accusations made against me by my colleague are false.

"I don't agree with a line of her letter." Minzolini also suggested Busi may have quit to anticipate a switch from the evening slot that he was considering making anyway.

Italy's journalists union called on RAI's management to intervene after the development and the broadcaster's president agreed that the situation should be looked into.

"Maria Luisa Busi's decision is another worrying signal of a situation that requires maximum attention from the company's top management, Paolo Garimberti said, "attention that for some time I've been calling for at the appropriate venue, the board of directors". Michele Santoro, the presenter of Annozero, the show Minzolini is suspected of trying to pull, resigned this week, reportedly in exchange for a multi-million-euro deal to produce different kinds of programmes.

photo: news anchor Maria Luisa Busi.

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