By Sylvia Poggioli
A paper by Sylvia Poggioli, fall 1990 fellow, focuses on media consolidation in Italy in the early 1990s. For most of its history the Italian press was a “politically-subsidized” institution, writes Poggioli, with Italian newspapers often representing political parties or movements. More recently, this institution was turned on its head and converted into a business, with four men dominating the news industry: Giovanni Agnelli, Carlo DeBenedetti, Raul Gardini and Silvio Berlusconi. Many Italians are concerned that too much power rests in too few hands, and Poggioli’s research strongly suggests that this concern is valid. Investigative reporting into businesses or interests controlled by the Big Four has been curtailed. Some stories are simply off-limits. The Big Four also effectively control up to 80-85 percent of the advertising market in Italy, making it difficult for new television networks or newspapers to break into the advertising market, and therefore next to impossible to challenge the existing powers. Journalists find themselves functioning in a new environment of fierce competition, in which professional values are often undercut by economic considerations. Poggioli examines whether democracy is hurt or helped by this new situation.