Corporate Scumbag: Berlusconi's corporate state

Issue 

In Italy, one man with wealth valued at over $25 billion has major influence over 90% of all television stations. He also owns newspapers, magazines and video outlets. Now, he is running a campaign to strip away the rights of Italian workers.

This man also happens to be the prime minister of Italy.

Silvio Berlusconi was first elected prime minister in 1994, running on a "tough on crime" and anti-immigration platform. He formed government with ultra-right parties that openly describe themselves as "post-fascist".

Seven months later, he was forced to resign after allegations of bribery, corruption and tax fraud. A huge protest movement demanded his resignation. Despite the taint of corruption, Berlusconi was again elected as the prime minister in May 2001. From the outset he has pursued a Thatcherite, neo-liberal economic agenda.

Berlusconi has also been a vocal supporter of the United States' racist "war on terrorism".

The corporate power of Berlusconi is concentrated in his massive media empire. He owns Italy's largest private television network and as prime minister exerts influence over the state-owned TV network. The Berlusconi family also runs a majority of Italian newspapers. It has been estimated that the Berlusconi media empire's tentacles reach 58 million Italians daily.

That's not all. Berlusconi owns important corporations in the film industry including the production company Medusa Films and Italy's largest video chain, Blockbuster Video. Berlusconi's media interests may soon expand beyond Italy to Germany.

Berlusconi demonstrated his willingness to use his media influence in a blatantly partisan way during the April 16 Italian general strike, in which 13 million people participated. It was organised to protest against Berlusconi's plan to remove unfair dismissal provisions from the Italian labour code.

Berlusconi ordered that only minimal media coverage be given to the strikes, which he claimed were "just union leaders letting off steam".

However, opposition to Berlusconi's capitalist agenda is growing stronger. It was a huge protest movement, combined with a general strike, that brought down Berlusconi's first reign in 1994. Last month, millions opposed Berlusconi in the largest ever demonstration against his government. Perhaps the Italian people will be able to oust this corrupt media mogul from office once again.

BY BRETT MULLER

[The author is a member of the Resistance socialist youth organisation.]

From Green Left Weekly, May 15, 2002.
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