Media control

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Sun Apr 21 08:16:17 MDT 2002

"Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one. "

A.J. Liebling


NY Times, April 21, 2002

Battle Over Media Controls Creates a Rift in Poland
WARSAW, April 17 — Adam Michnik was so angry that he apparently 
forgot his lungs were full of cigarette smoke. He sputtered in fury, 
something not unheard of for Poland's most famous editor and former 
dissident, and as the smoke blasted from his mouth and nose, he was, 
truly, a man breathing fire. 

"Why haven't they, over the last 15 years, made a wonderful 
newspaper?" raged Mr. Michnik, 56. "No one was stopping them from 
doing the same thing. Our crime is that in our heads we have minds 
and not sawdust."

Mr. Michnik's ire was directed at a familiar target, Poland's 
government. But this time the fight of this former opponent of the 
cold-war era's Communist governments is more personal. 

The nation's socialist government is pushing a law that places 
ownership restrictions on private media. Coincidence or not, the only 
ones affected by the most contentious provisions are Mr. Michnik's 
successful and outspoken newspaper, Gazeta Wyborcza, and its 
prospering parent company, Agora.

Mr. Michnik is taking it as a direct assault on him for not being 
friendlier to the government. His allies, which include every other 
major media outlet in Poland, say the law would reduce the power of a 
critical private press while strengthening public media controlled by 
the government. 

But government officials contend the bill is aimed at monopolies, not 
Mr. Michnik, and they point out that he has grown up from being a 
dissident symbol to heading Poland's most successful media company. 
Mr. Michnik's anger, they charge, is really about money.



NY Times, April 21, 2002

Italian Leader Warns Critics on TV to Toe the Line
ROME, April 20 — Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who already 
controls most of Italy's television outlets — and thus their 
reporters covering his government — has suggested that the few voices 
of dissent left on the airwaves get with the program or get out.

The Berlusconi family's Mediaset owns three of Italy's four private 
national television channels, and Mr. Berlusconi's government has at 
least nominal control of the three state-run channels. The direction 
of these state-run channels has traditionally been divided among the 
political parties represented in the Legislature, though, and one of 
the the three, RAI 3, is under management appointed by the political 

On Thursday, the conservative prime minister accused two journalists 
and a comedian who have been critical of him in the past of the 
"criminal use" of state television.

One of the journalists Mr. Berlusconi was referring to is Enzo Biagi, 
81, the acknowledged dean of Italian journalism, who invited Roberto 
Benigni, the actor and director best known in the United States for 
his film "Life Is Beautiful," to appear on his news commentary 
program shortly before last May's election. This was the election 
that brought Mr. Berlusconi to power and ended five years of 
center-left government.

On the program, Mr. Benigni said he was planning to vote for Mr. 
Berlusconi's opponent, the former major of Rome, Francesco Rutelli.

Another of the three Mr. Berlusconi reproached was Daniele Luttazzi, 
a comedian who once interviewed on television the author of "The 
Scent of Money," a highly critical look at Mr. Berlusconi's past. The 
third is Michele Santoro, a popular television news commentator whose 
views are left of center.

At a news conference in Bulgaria on Thursday, Mr. Berlusconi said, 
"They have made criminal use of public television."

Asked if that meant the three should lose their jobs, he said, "If 
they change, I have nothing against them. But since they won't. . . 

Under his government, Mr. Berlusconi said, state television "cannot 
be so seditious."

Louis Proyect, lnp3 at on 04/21/2002

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