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Italian broadcaster’s plans for gender-based channels spark fury

Rai’s proposals to show different content to men and women condemned as sexist

WT24 Desk

Italian state broadcaster Rai has sparked fury over a proposal to create separate male and female TV channels, The Guardian reports.

A reorganisation of some of the company’s channels as part of its strategic plan could result in one airing shows and films geared more towards men, and one aimed at women.

A source at Rai said the plan was about repositioning programmes to better target male and female audiences, rather than gender segregation, but the potential move has been lambasted by opposition MPs and women’s groups.

“This is frankly incomprehensible,” Salvatore Margiotta, a senator with the centre-left Democratic party who sits on the broadcaster’s parliamentary supervisory committee, said.

“As we try to overcome gender discrimination, in 2019, having one public channel that is dedicated to a female audience and another to a male audience is crazy. But it seems to be in line with the subculture of this government.”

Lella Palladino, the president of D.i.Re, the Women against Violence Network, described the proposal as “grotesque and sexist”.

“It will inevitably end up reinforcing the prejudices that underlie the persistent discrimination between men and women in which gender violence is rooted,” she added. “[Such prejudices] are a structural phenomenon of a society that is still trying to shake off patriarchal domination.”

The row erupted after it was announced Rai Movie and Rai Premium, channels that air repeats of popular films, would merge to create a new channel broadcasting shows and films targeted at men, while a similar version aimed at a female audience would be established.

The reason given for effectively scrapping the film channels was due to low audience numbers, even though they bring in about €30m (£26m) in annual advertising revenue between them.

The Italian journalists’ union, Usigrai, said in a statement that while it understood the need to respond to specific audiences, the “division on the basis of gender is unacceptable and risks opening up the door to the worst stereotypes”.

A Rai source said the aim of the proposals was to enrich film offerings and allow advertisers to better place their ads. “This controversy is ridiculous,” the source added. “There are lots of channels that are targeted according to age and gender. Take, for example, the film Rambo. It’s obvious that this would appeal more to a male audience.

“This [plan] is not intended to discriminate; it never came to mind to create a channel about sewing or one called Rai Men and another [called] Rai Woman. That would be offensive.”

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