This session aims to explore the development of Italian Television from its inception in 1954 to the commercialization of digital platforms such as Netflix in the early 2000s, with a specific focus on the rise and decline of Silvio Berlusconi's political and media power.
Two main perspectives inform the lecture. First of all, a political economy approach will emphasise the interplay between political interests and commercial purposes and how such a relationship influenced content. Secondly, the session will focus on how the televised message contributed to reshape a sense of national consciousness and identity.
In 1970, way before the rise of commercial networks, the Italian playwright and novelist Ennio Flaiano stated, "in thirty
years' time, Italy won't be like its governments intended, but as its TV dictated." In spite of its not-so-subtle media deterministic stance, this quote should not to be dismissed light-heartedly. On the contrary, a focus on the history of Italian mass media is crucial in order to shed light on a number of dynamics that go well beyond the Italian borders. As British historian Paul Ginsborg affirmed, "Italian history in these years, whatever its final destiny, is highly instructive for a number of central issues in the modern world: the nature of personal dominion at a time of crisis in representative democracy; the relationship between the media system and political power; the connection between consumerism, families, and politics; finally the ongoing weakness of the Left, its failure to identify and combat dangers, its incapacity to arouse enthusiasm for credible alternatives." (Ginsborg, 2005: 3).
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