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Interview with Francesco Franchi of Il Sole 24 Ore, Italy’s top financial daily, on the role of the visual journalist. Some wonderful examples showcased in the video, and interesting to hear his influences, including Nicholas Felton.

Uncontrolled Denominations with Leone Contini
Wednesday, 22 January 2014 16:00 Dumpling-making workshop
19:00 Performance-lecture, tea, conversation, tasting
Venue: Delfina Foundation Guest artist Leone Contini makes art that plumbs the ironies and predicaments of Prato, Tuscany — one of the most stereotyped environs in contemporary Europe — where one-fifth of the population are factory workers from Zhejiang, China. These Chinese migrants have transformed local agriculture amid precarious conditions, de-controlling — and revitalizing — the idea of Tuscany. Contini will present recent work on displacement, transcultural horticulture, and imagining communities, as well as emblematic foodstuffs: Carmignano Jiaozi, an Italian ravioli with Chinese fillings, Hundred Flowers Tea, a Florentine Maoist concoction from the 1960s, and Pang Da Hai, a restorative tea favored by Zhejiangese in Prato.

The present democracy in the world that arguably come the closest to match Baudrillard’s theory of the transpolitical is perhaps the Republic of Italy under the Presidency of Silvio Berlusconi. Berlusconi’s three periods in Office (1994-1995; 2001-2006; and 2008-2011) makes him the longest serving post-war Prime Minister of Italy. Simultaneously, Berlusconi has had an extensive record of criminal allegations directed at him, involving mafia collusion, false accounting, tax fraud, corruption and bribery of police officers and judges. In spite of being tried in Italian courts in several cases, Berlusconi has not been found guilty, except that of providing a false testimony in 1990. In addition, the many controversies and scandals home and abroad surrounding his presidency have left many foreign political commentators flabbergasted over his seemingly continuous popularity among the Italian voters. Berlusconi is often referred to as an ‘enigma’ or ‘phenomenon’ (cf. Hewitt, 2010). Hence, traditional representative democracy theory seems to struggle to explain the success of an archetypal demagogue like Berlusconi among enlightened and educated voters. Furthermore, Baudrillard’s possibly preferential choice of medium – the television screen – continues to have a unique standing in Italian society. 80 percentage of Italians use it as their main medium of information (Gandini, 2009), and Italy has been relatively slow in updating to Internet based communication. For instance they lag behind the European average in offering its inhabitants Broadband Internet access, partly because of an outdated Italian phone network. There is also a shared understanding that Italy for centuries has been a society of the spectacle (Perniola, 1995), in which imagery has had an unusual penetrative power over the Italian public. For instance, Simonetta Falasca-Zamponi (2000) analysis of Mussolini and the National Fascist Party’s rise to power demonstrates how an aesthetical approach to politics was the vital key behind fascism’s influence.

I want to focus on my country, in order to recall two issues, very negative and correlated risks. First of all, I want to underline the “risks of the political atmosphere”, the risk that judges and PP can unconsciously be conditioned by “atmosphere influences”. A few days ago a first instance court in Milan sentenced Mr Berlusconi to 4 years of imprisonment; it was not the first trial he was involved in (and this a demonstration of independency of the judiciary); the previous trials arrived to a sentence against other persons, but never against Mr Berlusconi, who was acquitted, at least with the formula that the proofs gathered were not sufficient (bard clause). In Italy we have – I think – the highest type of independency of the Judiciary in Europe; our Judiciary had to face several grave cases of widespread criminality: terrorisms, corruption, mafia. And were able to exercise its powers in a correct way, quite ever arriving to the reconstruction of the events and of the consequent responsibilities. Though, sometime, I am afraid that the above-mentioned decisions of acquittal of Mr Berlusconi could be in some extent related to the “atmosphere”. The doubt is that, maybe unconsciously and -of course – unwillingly, the “atmosphere” could influence some colleagues. And in this regard I must quote another phenomenon that happened in Mr Berlusconi’s term: the adoption of the “leges ad personam”. This included the adoption of new laws very urgently during the course of a criminal trial into which Mr Berlusconi was involved. The entering into force of these laws produced a patent effect: the acquittal of Mr Berlusconi. But there was a second and far more dangerous effect, an invisible effect: that is the message sent to the members of the Judiciary. Message was: mind you; it is not worthwhile; it could be dangerous to insist. That was something related to the atmosphere.

So the long-standing debate about the independence of Italy’s public broadcaster, RAI – addressed in Mapping Digital Media: Italy, and by the Open Media Coalition, Italy’s media reform movement – has now received the Grillo treatment.

Italian comedian Beppe Grillo last week accelerated debate in Italy about the independence of broadcast media and journalism from political interests, releasing poll results showing that, out of 95,000 responses, 99% of respondents wanted a public broadcast channel free from political meddling, and 52% wanted to see more investigative journalism about domestic issues.

Under the hashtag #raisenzapartite (“RAI (the public broadcaster) without the parties”), Grillo wrote a blog post asserting that:

“a part of the Italian population is living in a gigantic “Truman show”, and responsibility for this is entirely due to Italian journalists, with the usual few exceptions and in a country like ours, these exceptions deserve every possible praise. […] RAI has to be reorganised and transformed into a public service following the model of the BBC without any connection to the parties, without advertising, producing quality content that has mainly been produced in-house and not like now, when it’s entrusted to external companies with the building up of one set of costs on top of another. In Parliament, the M5S, in accordance with its programme, will propose the establishment of a single RAI channel, without any connection to the parties and without advertising. It proposes the sale of the other channels.”

It’s sure to be a topic of conversation at the International Journalism Festival in Perugia in two weeks, as Italian journalism already is over at the LSE’s POLIS project. In the meantime, take another look at the MDM Report, which proposed a wider range of media reform measures that could restore independence to Italy’s media: