But the thrust of Report wasn't so much the essentially undemocratic nature of the card, or the fact that so few people were entitled to it and that, of these, even fewer had received it. It was that the creation and distribution of the card generates a substantial amount of more or less invisible earnings, and costs, for a variety of bodies, state and not, involved in the process. It's a bad, incompetent and possibly corrupt use of public money and whoever stands to gain won't be one of the nation's poor. This hasn't stopped Berlusconi patting himself on the back about it these past few weeks. It's just one of the ways in which, according to SB, Italians are rendered immune from the international economic crisis as a result of his quick thinking and Tremonti's even quicker fingerwork on the accounts. OK, there are the usual nay-sayers. But who, after all,watches Report? Certainly not PDL voters.
In the finance ministry, however, the programme has touched a more delicate nerve. Tremonti (ex-tax lawyer, specialised in fiscal evasion and with an office in Switzerland) has made an official complaint to the parliamentary commission responsible for keeping an eye on the doings of the RAI. He hasn't complained about the facts presented in the programme - he can't, because they're all true and supported by documentation. What's irritated him is the programme's 'philosophy'. Apparently the information presented is 'partial'. The interviews have been 'edited'. The aim of the programme is to discredit the economic policy of the government. This is unacceptable, given that the RAI exists to provide a 'public service'.Two thoughts come to mind. The first is that, while self-deluding politicians all over the world probably identify government policy with public service, few would express quite so clearly the notion that public service broadcasting should exist purely and simply as a medium for defending - indeed, extolling - the activities of the government in power. Try telling that to the BBC. The second is that one of the right-hand men of Berlusconi, a man who has made a gross and vulgar art out of lying to the public by providing 'partial' information and 'edited' versions of the truth with an almost Stalinesque panache, is in no position to accuse Gabanelli - or anyone else - of being biased.