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World News

June 24, 2002

Italians turn to neighbourhood TV

THE people of Bologna, alarmed by the ?excessive and intrusive media power? of Silvio Berlusconi, are pioneering neighbourhood television stations. They see them as an alternative to the diet offered by the Italian Prime Minister?s commercial channels and the state-run RAI.

Francesco Berardi, who started the first street channel under the name Orfeo Television ? named after Via Orfeo, the street in which he lives ? said that the idea was catching on as Italians, fed up with a diet of ?mindless game shows and skewed news coverage?, discovered that they could run their own channels at low cost.

?This is a kind of citizens? revolt,? he told La Repubblica. ?It is not local TV, it is even more limited than that. Our transmitters are so weak we only cover a few streets. But people watch.?

Signor Berardi said that the mini-station was making use of unused frequencies. Equipment for ?DiY TV? costs less than 1,000, and the broadcasting range was sometimes only 150 square metres. It was a case of David versus Goliath, Signor Berardi said. ?This is a scheme born of weakness and desperation. But neighbourhood television could become a virus which spreads.?

Orfeo TV?s first programme was a feature on the local barman, a ?much-loved figure?. Stefana Bonaga, Signor Berardi?s partner in the enterprise, said that the station had its own video camera operators who roamed the neighbourhood, interviewing residents on both local and national issues. The bar served as the ?nerve centre? of the venture.

Signor Berlusconi insisted yesterday that he had not only kept himself ?at arm?s length? from the running of his television empire since becoming Prime Minister, but had also refrained from interfering in the running of RAI.

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