In April, I noted that television ratings indicate that sports audiences skew Republican and entertainment audiences Democratic. ”Which is more useful to control for propagandizing for your Party: the games or the stories?” I asked portentously.
An astute reader pointed to Italy, however, where Silvio Berlusconi is now enjoying his third terms as a center-right Prime Minister. Certainly, no politician enjoys leading his country more than the cruise-ship crooner turned TV and soccer billionaire, at least not as measured in number of prosecutors and magistrates who have fruitlessly investigated his complex dealings (789, according to the Prime Minister), albums recorded since 2003 (three), and public letters to the editor from his prima signora complaining about his relations with young ladies, such as his nominating TV starlets as candidates for the European Parliament (three).
When commercial television was finally legalized in the mid-1970s by an Italian court, Berlusconi bought up the main commercial networks, flooding them with soccer matches and cheap game shows. Berlusconi then purchased the AC Milan football club and made it the best in Italy. In 1994, he invented his own political party to replace the compromised Christian Democrats, naming it ”Forza Italia” after the chant of supporters of the national soccer team. It’s as if a less grumpy George Steinbrenner, the late owner of the Yankees, had gotten himself elected President of the United States.
So, I went to see a screening of a Swedish television documentary about Italian television: Videocracy. It’s an attempt by a half-Italian, half-Swedish killjoy named Erik Gandini to explain his native land’s television/politics to his friends in Stockholm. The leftist documentarian is peeved that the conservative media mogul stands foursquare behind traditional Italian values, such as big-breastedness.