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My two cents.

Finally, I have recognized that the difference between "news" and "gossip" is basically in the eye of the beholder.

At MIFED, the annual fall film market held in Milan, Italy, some major exhibitors were upset with the event's organizers because of a perceived lack of consideration on their part.

What happened was that, without fanfare, Fondazione Fiera Milano, the owner of the Milan Fairgrounds, inside which MIFED is staged, decided unilaterally to organize an opening ceremony for the event. Even though the purpose was to kick-start MIFED, the market organizers weren't involved in the ceremony's preparation nor in the selection of the invited guests. The MIFED organizers, who are part of Rassegne SpA, an independent licensee, were given just a few invitations for their management.

It happened that both the offended companies and the market organizers were seeking my involvement to clear the air. "We count on you and VideoAge to explain the situation to the Italians and the international community" I was told.

Easier said than done. I dutifully wrote what I considered a news item for the Italian daily to which I regularly contribute, but was promptly told that the item was "gossip." At that point, I passed the item, titled "A Storm Hit MIFED," onto an Italian daily media publication. Over dinner, the editor told me that he could not use it for lack of "news."

What's going on here? Am I losing my sense of what's really important to the industry? Let's review the implications:

* MIFED had received an unprecedented vote of confidence from the industry and yet major exhibitors felt that they had been wronged by the organizers. MIFED management's fault was only to have let its name be used by the market licensor.

* The opening cocktail party for an international affair was turned into a purely domestic and not-so-much-industry event by Fondazione Fiera Milano.

* Among the offended and most vociferous companies were RAI, MediaTrade and Medusa, basically 95 percent of the TV business and 50 percent of the film business in Italy.

* MIFED organizers were being treated as amateurs by Fondazione Fiera Milano. Was that a signal for the market's future, when, in three to four years, the Fairgrounds will move from its present location?

* Why would MIFED let Fondazione Fiera Milano interfere with its operations and allow a seemingly incompetent office to organize an industry event under its banner? Is there a problem between the two organizations or is there a problem in the Fondazione hierarchy?

Based on the above cursory analysis, one can easily determine that an item reporting the incident was very much an informative and important bit of news, and not just gossip.

So why was the news item dismissed by the Italian media? As I found out later the real problem was that the organizer of the lavish opening ceremony, Emanuela Talenti, is a powerful member of Fondazione Fiera Milano and said to be very close to the Governor of the Lombardy Region, Roberto Formigoni, who was elected under the Forza Italia party. The Region is main shareholder of Fondazione Fiera Milano. Talenti is said to be a very close friend of the the 56-year-old bachelor Governor.

Formigoni is a member of the influential Communion and Liberation (CL) association, the political arm of the Catholic Church in Italy, founded in Milan in 1954. As its financial arm, CL operates Compagnia delle Opere, which is active in investment and insurance and controls a string of trade publications in the print, TV and film sectors in Italy. But the web is even more extensive. First, MIFED's Rassegne SpA is closely linked to Compagnia delle Opere. Second, the spoil system from the last national election split Fondazione Fiera Milano among the CL and two political parties: Forza Italia and AN.

Fondazione Fiera Milano, which owns the Fairgrounds, has created Fiera Milano SpA, a public company recently quoted on the Milan stock exchange, to simply run the Fairgrounds. Even though Formigoni was elected under Forza Italia, CL maintains its independence and rarely are Formigoni and Forza Italia's leader (and Italy's Prime Minister) Silvio Berlusconi seen together.

Only after understanding the background did I realize that the problem was the story itself, and that my Italian colleagues, who well knew the difference between gossip and news, were simply afraid to step on the toes of powerful political figures who so carefully maintain a delicate balance of power.
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Title Annotation:exhibitors upset with MIFED organizers
Author:Serafini, Dom
Publication:Video Age International
Article Type:Editorial
Geographic Code:4EUIT
Date:Jan 1, 2003
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