Pubblicita': Silvio Berlusconi and the Italian Massmedia
Conti, Matthew J.
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The title of Silvio's Berlusconi's college thesis was "Pubblicita' ."It is an Italian word with several English meanings. It is used to describe marketing, publicity and commercials. Berlusconi' s early talent in this area would serve him throughout his career as he became Italy's most powerful and richest man. His ability to sell himself and his ideas would play an important role in each new venture he undertook. He was the man to capitalize the most from the Italian Economic Miracle of the 1960s and he was the entrepreneur to best understand and exploit the power of private television when the market opened in the late 1970s. Today , Berlusconi owns the largest media monopoly in all of Europe. While the story of the development of his media empire is quite interesting, it pales in comparison to the events that took place when Berlusconi decided to sell himself in the largest possible way-- to the Italian voters as a candidate for the Prime Minister of Italy. He attempted and succeeded doing this in a manner never before seen in Italy. He founded a political party and used his vast media resources to ensure that it would be successful. Those resources included newspaper, magazine and radio interests that allowed him to send his message to the masses easily and often. Opposition advertisements drowned in the sea of his television advertising. As prime minister of Italy, Berlusconi struggled to achieve the same excellent results that he was accustomed to in his business career. Typical of an Italian government, the Berlusconi government failed to last a full year. While he did not leave a leave a large mark on Italian government and public policy, Berlusconi's legacy remains powerful in Italian democracy. Just as he pioneered national commercial television in Italy, he also introduced many new marketing techniques to the Italian political campaign. He forced scores of political parties and politicians to wake up to the new television order of politics that he brought to Italy. Therefore, by the 1996 elections the national campaign became centered on television for the first time in Italian political history. Another important effect of Berlusconi was his influence on the Italian media. His success in 1994 also convinced the media that television had become the crucial component for success in modern politics. As a result, the media's coverage of the 1996 campaign was focused squarely on television advertising and the performances of the candidates. This phenomenon came at the expense of analysis and coverage of traditional issues facing the country. The thesis of this paper is that Berlusconi initiated an era in Italian media and politics that weakens the strength of Italian democracy. In this paper, the story of Berlusconi's successful career in business and the media will be recounted to provide the context for these development. Then, an in-depth analysis of the Italian press' reaction to several televised events will be used to demonstrate the effects of the television era on Italian politics. Finally, conclusions will be offered on the extent of the problem in the media and Berlusconi's hand in causing them.