Italian Reality TV Shows
Big Brother may be watching you but the Italian Public aren't.
Italy has taken a large step towards improving the quality of its entertainment
Love them or hate them reality TV shows are a global phenomenon. For the television companies they are a dead-cert way to boost rankings and generate advertising revenue.
However in Italy, the national broadcaster Rai has taken an unprecedented decision to stop screening them from 2008. It's a decision which is proving popular. From now on they will only appear on the Mediaset network controlled by the former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.
But why the sudden change of attitude?
La Republicca points to the recent lukewarm ratings for the top two shows - Grande Fratello (Big Brother) on Mediaset and L'Isola dei Famosi (Celebrity Island) on Rai. Grande Fratello is claimed to have had its viewing figures reduced by around a million viewers in 2006/7.
Rai's president, Claudio Petruccioli, says the decision has been taken to be in keeping with Italy's wider efforts to improve the standards of its programmes and wants to increase the money spent on Italian film-making.
Wild West is another programme recently shown on Rai Due in which ordinary people trained as cowboys in the backlands of Arizona.
Every week for 10 weeks the contestants had to demonstrate their cowboy skills by driving a herd of cattle or winning a rodeo-type competition to keep their place. Unfortunately for the makers, it was considered to be a huge flop and unlikely to be revived.
Mr Petruccioli described Reality TV shows as being 'unrealistic and coercive' and was quoted as saying, "... what inevitably results is unjustified and degrading behaviour. I don't believe they are the type of shows the majority of our viewers expect or want from a public service broadcaster."
Grande Fratello and L'Isola dei Famosi have attracted the biggest disparagement in Italy in recent years. Both shows were fined 100,000 Euro in December for blasphemy and swearing.
The programme-makers apologised, but neither that nor the fines silenced the protests from religious groups and parents; many of whom were calling for the programme to be taken off air immediately.
Rai's lack of interest in reality TV is in stark contrast to the broadcast philosophy of Silvio Berlusconi's network.
Despite RAI's policy to end these programmes, other networks continue to screen them with the favourites being - Uno, due, tre...stalla (one, two, three... stable) a programme in which farmers endeavour to convert showgirls into cowgirls, and La pupa e il secchione (The Beauty and the Geek). Both of these have continued to have high ratings in 2006.
"We are looking for better programmes," said Signor Petruccioli although he went on to admit, "I am not saying that we will never go back to these shows"
Italy has never been particularly renowned for the quality of its television programmes with its plethora of unfathomable and seemingly pointless gameshows - pointless unless you have a particularly penchant for topless girls and fake custard pies.
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