Silvio Berlusconi caught out trying to stifle media

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Wiretap transcripts lead to investigation of Prime Minister and TV regulator

Wiretaps of Silvio Berlusconi haranguing a broadcasting official over what he saw as politically hostile programming have prompted new criticism of the Italian premier for attempting to stifle the media.

The new transcripts, published in Italy for the first time yesterday, suggest that Mr Berlusconi telephoned a commissioner on the country's independent broadcast regulator, Agcom, after he learned that a show examining corruption cases against him was due to go out on state broadcaster Rai.

"What the fuck are you doing with all this?" the irate Prime Minister shouted at the commissioner, Giancarlo Innocenzi. In another call Mr Berlusconi demands that a show looking at his alleged mafia links be muzzled.

Mr Innocenzi's responses appear largely obsequious. As a result of the wiretaps, excerpts of which were printed in the centre-left La Repubblica, Mr Berlusconi is under investigation, along with Mr Innocenzi, for possible abuse of office. Agcom, Italy's official communications regulator, is supposed to be an "independent and autonomous" authority, accountable to parliament.

Rai's director-general, Mauro Masi, also features in the transcripts, in which he appears to say Rai "is doing all it can" to placate the Prime Minister. Mr Masi tells Mr Innocenzi that it has "a strategy in operation" that would resolve the "problem of Santoro, who is a particular type of problem". Michele Santoro is the high-profile host of the Annozero show that has led Rai TV's examination of corruption charges against the premier.

The publication of the transcripts prompted a new round of criticism for the embattled Mr Berlusconi yesterday. Head of the opposition Democratic Party Pierluigi Bersani snapped: "If he wants to change the TV programme, I'd suggest the Prime Minister use the remote control not the telephone."

Rai, which Mr Berlusconi frequently accuses of bias against him and his government, runs three of Italy's six terrestrial TV channels. Mr Berlusconi's own Mediaset empire owns the other three.

Critics note that the media mogul premier has a history of interfering with the state broadcaster. In 2007 transcripts emerged of Mr Berlusconi ringing Rai's then head of drama, Agostino Sacca, and cajoling him to cast his favourite starlets in order to "raise the boss's [Mr Berlusconi's] morale".

The publication of the latest tapes came as Rai chiefs confirmed it would implement a controversial, government-initiated ban on political chatshows ahead of the elections on 28-29 March.

The respected Corriere della Sera newspaper said that Mr Berlusconi was showing signs of desperation now that the wheels appeared to be falling off his PDL party ahead of the vote.

The Prime Minister is seeing poll ratings fall at the same time as an arch rival on the centre right, Gianfranco Fini, makes threatening political manoeuvres. Daniele Capezzone, a spokesman for Mr Berlusconi's PDL party, called the wiretaps probe and the "fuss" over the talks shows "part of a worrying plot staged by people who hate Berlusconi".

The Prime Minister himself claimed that judicial cases against him were whipped up "like clockwork" at election time and "blown up by obliging dailies".

"It is a grotesque initiative. I am not at all worried about the content because the Prime Minister has a right to speak on the phone with anybody without being intercepted," he told state radio.

Media muscle: What the PM said

Mr Berlusconi to Giancarlo Innocenzi, commissioner on broadcasting regulator Agcom:

"I'm telling you, Thursday evening there was still the Spatuzza trial [on TV] and they were trying me as if I belonged to the Mafia... really, if you don't manage to do this stuff here... I don't know..."

Mr Innocenzi to Rai director general Mauro Masi after news emerges of a Rai programme on the Berlusconi-Mills bribery charges:

"Berlusconi yelled at me: 'What the fuck are you doing with all this?" Then he gave me an ear-bashing that never ended."

Mr Berlusconi suggests that Mr Innocenzi take the matter up with Agcom president Corrado Calabro:

"But be careful on the phone with the president [Calabro], there are voices that say... his telephone is being recorded."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
New Articles
tvDownton Abbey Christmas special
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
News
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: Stanley Tucci, Sophie Grabol and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvSo Sky Atlantic arrived in Iceland to film their new and supposedly snow-bound series 'Fortitude'...
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald in the Doctor Who Christmas special
tvForget the rumours that Clara Oswald would be quitting the Tardis
Arts and Entertainment
Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi showing a small mascot shaped like a vagina
art
News
The Queen delivers her Christmas message
newsTwitter reacts to Her Majesty's Christmas Message
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Life and Style
fashion
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all