Italian state broadcaster RAI continues to deny rumours that its television channels are about to be privatised, but according to board member Stefano Balassone, will seek global partners as soon as it gains autonomy from the Italian government.
The Italian parliament has recently stepped up efforts to push through statutory reforms that will lead to the broadcaster's political and economic independence, but RAI denies reports that two of its three television channels will be privatised outright.
"I don't believe anyone in Italy currently has the know-how or capital to be able to take a majority stake in RAI's core business," Balassone told Screen International. "What is essential right now are the institutional reforms that will give RAI both political and economic independence. Any other options will be examined when these reforms have been completed."
Future options include RAI entering into a private financial alliance with a global player, Balassone said. Such a deal would enable RAI to expand internationally while providing an Italian outlet for its foreign partner.
Meanwhile RAI has started privatising some of its non-broadcasting assets by putting 49% of its technical plant Raiway up for sale. Among those bidding are the US' Brera Capital and Hicks Muse Tate & Furst, France Telecom and Portugal's Media Capital.
The current urgency over RAI's independence - first mooted 15 years ago - has been prompted by Italy's impending national elections, scheduled for next April, and the growing popularity of opposition leader Silvio Berlusconi, who also owns rival network Mediaset. Should Berlusconi come to power, his party would be responsible for electing RAI's board of directors.
Autonomy will also give RAI the freedom to increase revenues, as there are currently limits on the amount of advertising it can sell. "We have a situation where RAI has almost twice Mediaset's audience share but only one third of its advertising revenue," Balassone said.