Italian state TV board renews push for 'fake news' journalist to be president 


Angela Giuffrida, The Guardian

The board of the Italian state broadcaster, Rai, has for a second time nominated Marcello Foa, a Eurosceptic journalist who has often shared stories proved to be fake, to be its president.

The nomination will now be put to the parliamentary committee that oversees Rai on Tuesday, where support for Foa’s candidacy is believed to be building.

Foa, who also holds anti-gay, anti-immigration, anti-vaccine and pro-Russia views, has been pushed for the role by the governing coalition of the far-right League and the anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S).

The M5S leader, Luigi Di Maio, said Foa would help purge the “parasites” installed by mainstream parties who had led Rai for decades. 

His candidacy was blocked in August when he failed to receive the required two-thirds of votes from the oversight committee due to opposition from Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, the centre-left Democratic party and the smaller leftwing party Free and Equal.

His appointment now appears more likely after Berlusconi said this week that his party would drop its opposition, and because Rai’s board consists of a majority of politicians from the League and M5S.

Berlusconi’s change of heart came after a meeting with Matteo Salvini, the deputy prime minister and leader of the League, as the pair sought to revive a centre-right coalition, which also includes the smaller far-right party Brothers of Italy, before upcoming regional elections in Trentino Alto-Adige, Abruzzo, Basilicata and Sardinia.

Sign up to the Media Briefing: news for the news-makersRead moreThe two party leaders, along with Giorgia Meloni of Brothers of Italy, met again on Thursday night where they reiterated their support for Foa.

There is speculation that Berlusconi’s new stance is linked to his business interests. He owns the rival media company Mediaset, and Foa was a journalist at his newspaper, Il Giornale.

“Foa is a Berlusconi man, he worked for him … and now that Berlusconi is reviving Forza Italia [within the centre-right alliance] it works for him,” said a media industry source. “It will be like an extension of his other media interests – with Foa, Berlusconi can try to influence Rai.”

The source said Foa’s appointment was likely to be detrimental for journalism in Italy. “Foa is a guy who is really in love with the Catholic religion, he hates the EU and loves Russia and Putin, so all of these are red signals that it will be bad for information.”

Foa has also repeatedly criticised the Italian president, Sergio Mattarella. When Foa was first mooted for the Rai role, the journalists’ unions FNSI and Usigrai described the potential appointment as “a fatal blow to the autonomy and independence of the public service”.

Fake stories shared by Foa on social media have included one during the 2016 US presidential election campaign about Hillary Clinton participating in satanic dinners and another about a supposed plan to overthrow Donald Trump.

Angela Giuffrida, The Guardian, 21/09/2018