Sanremo and the controversy over the public service

Mauro Masi’s ‘Reminder’ for Adnkronos

Public service. In the week of San Remo, as is the consolidated tradition, controversies of various kinds return, more or less all connected to the concept of “public radio and television service”. This is in fact the key theme that binds Italians to RAI and is a concept that is technically and substantially difficult to frame, even more today in our internetized world which tends to question its very existence. In fact, we need to ask ourselves “upstream” if the current context characterized by the explosion of multi-channel and multi-platform still justifies the need for a “public service”. In other words, can the demand for programs that can be defined as public service still be satisfied by the autonomous market offer through hundreds of television channels and through the interactivity allowed by the Internet without the need for one (or more) ad hoc broadcasters? For example, can the existence of easily accessible thematic channels for theatre, sport, school, cooking, the weather, etc. make the need for a specific schedule for a “public” broadcaster superfluous? The answer is not easy also because it presupposes a complete definition of the notion of public radio and television service which instead, as has been said, is one of the most complex and tormented from a legal point of view, being variable from era to era, from country to country. If a common thread can be found between the different concepts and the different international experiences, it is that the intervention of the State in the television sector (as an actor and not as a mere regulator) is justified by the importance attributed to the medium, to its influence on behavior political and social issues as well as with the opportunity to protect “national roots and identities”. In this sense it seems to me that the reasons for the public radio and television service in our country continue to fully exist even if it is legitimate to wonder, looking to the future, whether the instrument used up to now (a single specialized broadcaster, financed partly by the license fee and partly by the market) is the most efficient and/or most useful one. At international level, the solutions adopted are essentially three: Countries in which there is only one public TV station or one with public functions (in addition to Italy, Austria, Sweden, Finland, Switzerland, Portugal, France, the United Kingdom – albeit the latter with some distinction); Countries where there are more public broadcasters (Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Norway, Netherlands, Spain, Australia, USA); a public service focused on programs and not on the broadcaster. This is the case in New Zealand where there is a state TV but which is fully financed on the market with advertising while the license fee is collected by public structures which then distribute it to anyone making “public service” programmes.

Bill Gates and the economists. In a long 2019 interview released by Bill Gates to the American magazine Quartz (but relaunched by many sites these days in conjunction with the news that the “retired” Gates has become one of the first landowners in the USA and in the world, owning 275 thousand acres of land – about 110,000 hectares – for a value of over 800 million dollars) the founder of Microsoft had to declare, among other things, that “economists don’t understand much about macroeconomics” a strong (and rather questionable) statement but supported by a an argument that is still very current today: “it’s not like physics, where you have certain inputs and certain autputs are announced. Will interest rates ever return to normal? And why aren’t they returning to normal today? On this we will never obtain a consensus among economists” Prophetic, as always. (by Mauro Masi)