The disastrous situation of communication and information in Italy must be faced

by Enzo Marzo

Neither a “democratic revolution” nor a politics without amateurism and excessive transformations are imaginable, if the disastrous situation of the communication. It is not known if we have reached a point of no return, but it is certain that our country has never found itself at a level so degraded in this area, considered by all to be crucial for democracy.

Freedom of information is, for better or worse, guaranteed by constitutions and laws. The media that surround the globe with their nets declare themselves free, but they are everywhere in chains. Constraints, of course, are increasingly virtual, invisible, they bind minds and direct them. A very long struggle has ensured the “formal” freedom of information: today in industrialized countries it is possible to print, transmit, emit signals, sounds, messages. Everything (almost) freely.

The freedom of the media enterprise is (almost) legally guaranteed, often subsidized. And so the symbolic world has settled on the real world, covering it, reshaping it, if not replacing it. The new age it is under the sign of information. The accumulation of information tools is impressive. Even excessive, some fear. However, if each of the segments of this heap is polluted because it is not free, everything turns into a nightmare of conformity and illiberità. Public opinion is flattered as dominating and omnipotent, but in fact it is manipulated, heterodirected, weakened. The tools of communication are inexorably and progressively concentrated.

Everywhere reign, if not monopoly, oligopoly and elephantine structures, very expensive, unattainable by ideological minorities. The reader, the spectator and the listener, who appear everywhere as protagonists, are actually reduced to unconscious objects. They do not have any rights. The results of the conquered media freedom of enterprise are depressing. The public-reader defends himself as best he can and steps back: he progressively abandons the more “difficult” tools and succumbs to the “easier” ones. He goes less and less on newsstands to buy newspapers and lies in front of the TV, assimilating improbable news that overlaps in his mind in a jumble of fiction and news. […]

Junk sheets are just the flashiest bubble of the crisis. But this is now structural. While in the first part of the Second Republic, dominated by Berlusconi, the problem was all in the monopoly / duopoly of Raiset and in the conflict of interests, in recent years, the break-in of the network and Renzi’s authoritarian ambition they detonated the communication system, making the crisis almost irreversible. As for the public television medium, the Renzi reform has turned the clock back decades, placing the CEO totally in the hands of the government. Thus we went from a false pluralism, made up of subdivision between parties, to an absolute monopoly of the Executive. […]

According to the polylogue Robert A. Dahl, of the five criteria that characterize an accomplished democracy, three concern the media:

1. Effective participation (“before a strategy is adopted […], all members must have equal and effective opportunities to communicate their views on this matter to others “);

2. Right to information (“within reasonable time limits, each member must have equal and effective opportunities to know the main strategic alternatives and their probable consequences”);

3. Control of the Agenda. The same author adds that “offering opportunities to create clear knowledge of public affairs is not only part of the definition of democracy, it is a requirement basic”. […]

Need for a “statute of the rights of readers”. No one has ever thought of guaranteeing the rights of readers. Yet they are consumers of a much more delicate commodity than others, because it affects mental and democratic health. Today the reader has only very few guarantees on the product he buys and those few are disregarded. Equally, the reader is not informed of how the information process is formed in “his” newspaper, and the legal defenses against the prevarications he suffers are scarce. Perhaps a few rules would be enough to heal the most visible faults.

A “Statute of the readers”, proposed here, is supported by two essays by Luigi Ferrajoli e Stefano Rodotà. It is realized not only in the to enforce finally the rules in force, but in to melt a true “right of readers” to non-polluted and transparent information. On this topic I wrote a book with analyzes and above all concrete proposals on Rights of readers, (Biblion editions).

Download it for free here

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