Broadcasts are dominated by two main organisations: RAI (state owned public service which relies on a licence fee and commericals) and the Mediaset (founded by Berlusconi which is financed by commercials). RAI and Mediaset control about 80% of ratings and both are polticised. There are 358 broadcasters throughout the country though, mostly very small and local.
On average people watch 27 hours of television per week (only the UK and the US watch more at 28 hours per week) and there is an average of 1 television for every 2 people.
There are numerous channels available. The following table shows the main terrestrial ones in terms of viewership.
Other digital channels include:
Television first started broadcasting in Italy in 1939 however this was short-lived. The constraints of the Second World War meant all broadcasts were shut down for the duration and it was not until well after the war ended - in 1954 to be exact - that broadcasting resumed.
In the early days of post-war broadcasting there was a single state broadcaster: RAI. They faced an uphill challenge in promoting the new medium with the price of television sets well out of the range of average working families and on top of that, a prohibitively high licence fee to watch television even for those who could afford a set.
Instead it was often bars who bought and installed televisions to attract customers and this led to watching television becoming something of a social event: families and friends would gather together for a drink and to watch a programme.
During this time the country was still largely fragmented, there was low literacy and many areas had poor access to the cities and rest of the country. Television is credited with uniting the country - especially linguistically - in this period. A joke doing the rounds at the time was that the country wasn't united by Garibaldi but by TV host Mike Bongiorno.
Since then TV has gone from strength to strength and the intial enthusiasm and excitement of the medium has not quite worn off yet. It is still an immensely popular medium with most Italians getting their daily news from TV rather than print.
However, many critics argue that television today is still stuck in the format of television in its golden period - the 1970s. Shows are repetitive and derivative and the typical "light entertainment" style show is still going strong. There are few innovative ideas and many drab imports.
The first video shows the commencement of broadcasting on the 3rd January 1954. The second is a typical show on modern televsion.
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