Berlusconi put Italy in Australian headlines: UC report

Berlusconi put Italy in Aus headlines: UC report

Sarina Talip

13 December 2013: What do you think of when you think of Italy in the news? Tuscan villas for rent? Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and his infamous parties? Daring Italian fashion? Or maybe how the Roma football team is doing?

Peter Putnis

Peter Putnis, co-author of the report of Italy in the Australian news media. Photo: Michelle McAulay

According to a new report by University of Canberra communication researchers, Italy’s controversial former Prime Minister Berlusconi helped political news knock fashion off the top spot as the most reported Italian stories in Australia.

Italy in the Australian News Media 2005 -2012, which was recently launched at the Italian Ambassador’s residence, is the largest study of the representation of Italy in the news media of another country ever undertaken.

University of Canberra professor of communication Peter Putnis, one of the co-authors of the report, said the comprehensive study offers a clearer image of how Italy is portrayed in this country.

“The report analyses 5,000 news and television media stories about Italy and therefore gives people an understanding of how Italy is represented in the Australian media,” Professor Putnis said.

He said one of the key findings is that unlike some countries where there’s only quite a narrow series of topics covered, Italy is viewed through a very broad series of topics.

“We found Italian fashion is very prominent – in some years it’s more prominent than politics. But in the Berlusconi years, politics was more important than fashion.”

Professor Putnis says during the period covered by the study there was more than usual interest in Italian political developments in Australia, because of the newly acquired right of expatriate Italians to vote in the 2006 and 2008 Italian general elections.

“The relationship between Australia and Italy is a long-standing one and Italians form the largest immigrant community in Australia,” Professor Putnis said. “There are all these connections, whether in culture, sport or politics.

“And of course, Italy is one of the most popular destinations for Australian tourists.”

And Professor Putnis thinks the widespread coverage of Berlusconi’s sex scandals didn’t damage Australia’s view of Italy – too much.

“I don’t think it did in any substantial way, partly because Berlusconi got defeated. But as a long running story, it was like Italy was on trial, with Australians thinking: ‘Isn’t it strange that they have a prime minister like Berlusconi’?” Professor Putnis said.

“Other topics covered in the Australian media include tourism, culture, economics, politics, sport – we share some very close sporting connections.

“This reflects the depth and breadth of the relationship between Australia and Italy.”