The Italian Almanac

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Italian Television - December 21

Italy's two most popular TV reality shows were slapped with 100,000-euro fines on Wednesday for blasphemous language and swearing. Grande Fratello (Big Brother) and L'Isola Dei Famosi (Celebrity Island) were punished for "violating the rules of respect for religious sentiment and protection of minors".

The Mediaset network of former premier Silvio Berlusconi's was fined for the Grande Fratello show screened on Canale 5 on November 4, 2004. In this programme, one of the contestants said the worst curse in the Italian language, an expression which literally translates into English as 'Pig God'.

The participant, eccentric Tuscan musician Guido Genovese, was angry at being sin-binned by 'Big Brother'. He was immediately expelled from the show, despite profuse apologies. Mediaset also apologised and said nothing like it would ever happen again. Consumer, religious and parents groups raised howls of protest and some even called for the programme to be pulled completely. The show's presenter, Barbara D'Urso, countered at the time that "there is worse on TV".

State network Rai, meanwhile, had its knuckles rapped for the edition of 'La Isola Dei Famosi' screened on Rai2 on October 18 this year. On that edition of the show actor and comic Massimo Ceccherini was kicked off for uttering similar blasphemy. The authority said the two reality shows had a responsibility to be careful about offensive language as they were popular with children and young people.

The fines will be welcomed by critics who see the proliferation of reality shows as partly responsible for falling standards on Italian TV.