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Enzo Biagi is back April 23, 2007

Posted by dorigo in news.

It is with a sigh of relief that I finally see Enzo Biagi back on his chair, ready to comment on the latest news with his usual witty, dry style. Biagi is an illustrious italian journalist and a novelist. At the mature age of 86 years, he is still capable of surprising insight in his country’s affairs.

Five years ago Biagi, who is not politically tagged but was nonetheless seen as an opposer by the center-right government, had a short but incisive 10-minute slot in prime time on the public TV network RAI, Il fatto . He had been discussing politics in a way that was not of the liking of Silvio Berlusconi, who was then Prime Minister.

It so happened that on April 18th, 2002, in a unprecedented act of imperium, mr. Berlusconi mandated that Biagi, along with Michele Santoro -another TV journalist directing a lively talk show- and the comedian Daniele Luttazzi, be stripped of their jobs, because they were using the public network for attacks to the government. The premier, speaking to journalists during a visit to Bulgaria, accused Biagi, Luttazzi and Santoro of “making a criminous use of public television”. Here are his words:

L’uso che Biagi, Santoro, … come si chiama quell’altro … Luttazzi, hanno fatto della televisione pubblica, pagata con i soldi di tutti, è un uso criminoso. E io credo che sia un preciso dovere della nuova dirigenza di non permettere più che questo avvenga. 

(The use that Biagi, Santoro,…what’s the other one’s name… Luttazzi, made of public television, paid with everybody’s money, is a criminous use. And I believe it is a precise duty of the new management of preventing this from happening in the future. [TD’s translation]) 

The sentence was called “editto bulgaro” (bulgarian edict). And “the new management” of RAI (the lackeys he had placed there by virtue of an italian spoils system following his victorious 2001 elections) complied: in the turn of a few months Biagi, Luttazzi and Santoro’s programs were canceled. That was a horrible demonstration of the concept our Prime Minister had of democracy and freedom of speech, as well as of the amount of those things which were in effect in Italy under Berlusconi’s leadership.

Evidently, one reasoned, only the private TV network owned by Berlusconi himself was really free… That is the real power of a free market!, proclaimed his supporters, pointing out that it was a great source of democracy the fact that Italy had so strong a private TV network…  That point was also bound to be forgotten soon thereafter, when the newscaster Enrico Mentana -who appeared too balanced in his handling of political issues if seen from the right- was removed from the prime time news on Canale 5, the main battleship of the Mediaset network.

Now Biagi is back on track – after five years of absence. Five years are a long time for a 86-years old journalist, but he seems to handle it well. He said yesterday: “Excuse me for the temporary absence, due to technical reasons”. Welcome back, Enzo!


1. jeff - April 23, 2007

Well I liked Biagi then and I don’t dislike him now. But I think it is hypocritical of Italy to have made him come back this way as it was shameful for the RAI-TV managers to have fired him in the first place. Because he was fired by RAI people, not by Berlusconi. It were the moral midgets in RAI that took Berlusconi’s words as a prompt and too Biagi out. The problem with RAI is that it is STATE television and most RAI giornalists and all managers just suck-up to whatever power, person or party, they percieve as useful.

Once upon a day, when ideologies where almost out of control, a State run TV believed it was right to force culture down the throats of the population, and a partial justification of this could be found by seeing that in those days many TV programs were decent and a few memorable. Nowadays the STATE TV in Italy just sucks.

Once last homage to Biagi. He truely is a good, respectable and honorable man. Luttazzi is a corrosive clown while Santoro is a real jerk without honor.

2. dorigo - April 23, 2007


I do not understand how you can claim that Berlusconi was not the commissioning hand behind (well, in front of everybody) the firing of the three TV anchormen: the “moral midgets” were put in charge by him, just so he could manouver them as he pleased. If Bin Laden says “somebody should drive a plane through those towers” and a few simple minds do it, it is right to go after his ***, isn’t it ? Also, note the wording of the perfect mafia boss: “credo sia un preciso dovere”… Artistic understatement!

True, italian TV used to be much better. But they fired the wrong people: you like Biagi, and while you do not admire Santoro, he ran (and runs again now) a quite successful program which discussed real issues. As for Luttazzi, well, I agree, he is a clown, but he is better than others in Rai today. If Rai got this bad, it is through following commercial TV down a venomous spiral. I am afraid we can’t do much, it’s too late.


3. jeff - April 24, 2007

I am not sure of the following but I think that formally Berlusconi did not have the power to fire him. Then of course in Italy things never work formally. Things just kind of happen, usally by breaking all kinds of rules and laws. There are many things I don’t understand! Even Berlusconi, on today’s newpapers, said he actually likes Biagi and was too harsh back then! Italy is all messed up! Berlusconi doesn’t need my defense and I certainly don’t like him. He is so Italian!

Tommaso. Another thing I don’t understand. I don’t understand how Santoro is admired so much. He is a very good story teller but he is always out to prove a point, his point, not to discover/uncover the truth. It called circular reasoning. You choose the data that confirms your theory and do not give contrary data any air, which is equivalent to denying others the right to tell alternative stories. A circular reasoner manipulates data to tell the story/theory he set out to tell. He is not an explorer of human nature, or of the nature of Italy. He is JUST a story teller, maybe with talent, but STORY teller. People just love stories. Checking that the story has anything to do with reality is not a human trait. Liking stories is! Hey! I think I just answered myself! If a story teller is good then he will have flocks of people applauding him. Not because the story has anything to do with reality, but because it is a good story!

Santoro is very unlike Biagi. Everyone likes Biagi, but then why is the anti-Biagi style of Santoro so admired? The right to free press? Of course, okay. But does Santoro do the notion of free Press any justice. I think not because anyone that is as ideological as he is suffers from a systematic error. Biagi is fair, open, ironic with style, never cruel to the person he is interviewing. A charming man. You like Biagi? Then how in the name of Zeus can there be admiration for Santoro? My criticizing Santoro is a homage to Biagi. Biagi will go to heaven, Santoro will burn in hell. There are no alternatives as the Pope cancelled Limbo.

4. dorigo - April 24, 2007

Jeff, if you are asking whether the prime minister in Italy has the power to fire the administration board of RAI, the answer is no. But that tells you nothing. People like Berlusconi do not act through legal means, they are accustomed to order and cannot tolerate who disobeys them. Come on, don’t tell me this is news to you. With people employed in RAI, accustomed to cling to their chair by bowing their head, the sentence of Berlusconi had the same effect of terrorizing them out of their wits and reducing them to a trembing mass of jello. No wonder they acted so quickly.

Santoro has a successful TV program where hosts of both center-left and center-right eagerly participate. I agree that he has his beliefs and they show, but much more comes out of the program than what are his views. Besides, if something has success, it means it fills a gap, and since today’s television is all about commercial revenues, why take him out ?

I well imagine you dislike Santoro, but he is not alone: many other TV anchors in italy have opposite political ideas and are allowed to thrive. There is people who likes him and people who hates him, so I do not see the point of getting rid of him.

As for Berlusconi declaring he was too hard on Biagi 5 years ago, and that he did not mean to fire him, that is just the N-th demonstration that the man is a clown.


5. Beppe Grillo attacks « A Quantum Diaries Survivor - September 21, 2007

[…] of those journalists and comedians who Berlusconi fired from public television with his famous “bulgarian edict”, and who has now returned to his original job after winning a lawsuit against his employer. […]

6. Addio Enzo « A Quantum Diaries Survivor - November 6, 2007

[…] act, and he had to wait four years for the fall of Berlusconi’s government to be able to return to work on television, albeit only briefly.  As for Santoro and Luttazzi, they have just restarted to appear on […]

7. tv program - December 2, 2007

i like biagi

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