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Cuts at private TV channel "pose a serious danger to pluralism in Italian media," says IFJ

(IFJ/IFEX) - The following is a 25 September 2008 IFJ media release:

EFJ Says Wave of Layoffs at Italian TV La7 is Dangerous for Pluralism

The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), the European group of the International Federation of Journalists, today expressed its solidarity with staff and unions at Italian TV channel La7 who are facing an unprecedented wave of lay-offs that will cut more than a quarter of the work force.

"Not only did these massive lay-offs take place without warning but they also pose a serious danger to pluralism in Italian media," said EFJ President Arne König. "This TV channel is the only alternative at national level to the public broadcaster RAI, which is controlled by Prime Minister Berlusconi's government, and the channels owned by Mr. Berlusconi outright, which makes it very precious."

Earlier this week, the owner of La7, Telecom Italia Media, announced its intention to fire 25 members of its 88-person news department staff, citing vague and unfair accusations of "unproductiveness." It is the first time in Italy that a national broadcaster has fired so many fully employed journalists at the same time.

La7 (known as "The Seven") is the third-largest private national broadcaster in Italy and the only one not owned by Berlusconi's Mediaset. It is owned by the former national telecom operator, Telecom Italia, and has been considered - unanimously - the most impartial and independent channel in the highly politicized Italian TV landscape, which is dominated by state-owned RAI and the Mediaset group.

The Italian Journalists National Union (Federazione Nazionale della Stampa Italiana, FNSI) as well as journalists from Berlusconi's networks have declared their solidarity with La7 colleagues, currently on strike to protest the lay-offs.

"We hope that Telecom Italia Media will face its responsibility as news source and suspend its plan, which will undermine a channel who has a valuable presence as an independent voice in what is otherwise a homogeneous broadcasting landscape," said FNSI President Roberto Natale.

The EFJ represents over 260,000 journalists in more than 30 countries.

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