Cardinal Camillo Ruini, president of the Italian bishops' conference, appealed for improvements in TV fare, and his plea prompted an immediate response from public- and private-TV officials.
In his address Monday to the episcopate's Permanent Council, the cardinal explained that to "improve the quality of what television offers" means "to give more time to positive life testimonies and experiences, avoiding that debasement which concentrates on sex, violence and bloody incidents and, more generally, on that ephemeral culture so frequently seen today."
The presidents of the principal networks, the state-run RAI and the private Mediaset (founded by Silvio Berlusconi, the current Prime Minister), replied to the cardinal today in the pages of the newspaper Avvenire.
Antonio Baldassare, president of RAI, said that a two-tier review of public-network programming will soon be in place, "one external [to RAI] and another internal, to guarantee the protection of children and the quality."
Noting that existing codes of this nature have not been observed, the RAI president also suggested that a panel be established with concrete powers to control and sanction, as is already the case for advertising.
For his part, Fedele Confalonieri, president of Mediaset, said he shared the cardinal's concern, and promised to do everything possible to respond to his appeal.
"We already have an internal self-regulating code, which intervenes more often than it seems," Confalonieri said. "Mediaset has rejected several advertising campaigns because it regarded the message being transmitted as harmful, especially for minors."
He added: "Not only was it violent advertising. It was advertising with an ambiguous meaning. I think we did a job of prevention, invisible and more useful than censure."
Confalonieri, however, tried to shift some of the responsibility onto families.
"If children are watching television at night, Mediaset and RAI cannot be blamed," he said. "Television must not make families irresponsible."