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My two cents.

My Two Cents

On September 4th, 1989, while on a weekend stopover in the Colorado mountains, I heard that an Italian airplane had crashed in Cuba.

Seeking more information, I scanned the whole radio dial twice and zapped over 20 TV channels before I stomped on the...Telegiornale, the Italian evening newscast from RAI with the dramatic visuals et al.

Now imagine, I am seating in a refuge-like motel in the rocky cracks of Mount Elbert, virtually in the middle of the country and watching that day's RAI news! Then it dawned on me. For a moment, the tragedy -- callously I may add -- became secondary. I was marveling at that great technological achievement: satellites. But, wait! At the same moment, one name came to my mind: Pachetti.

I mean, CNN hadn't reported it, and the American networks were happily showing talk and game shows.

After almost two decades of painstaking labor, Pachetti had finally accomplished what the Italian-American inventor of the first telephone, Antonio Meucci, couldn't accomplish -- an Italian communication network in America. Up until then, RAI Corp., the RAI-owned and New York State incorporated company headed by Renato Pachetti was, for me, like a gray lady who, once in a while, decided to give a party.

It took a tragedy to make me realize the uphill battle that Pachetti had been fighting in the U.S. for RAI and the Italian entertainment industry.

Not that the situation was ever easier back in Italy at the mother company headquarters.

Over 20 changes at the top of RAI executive level, coupled with the rollercoaster political fortune of RAI Corp. backers, have undoubtedly helped Pachetti to become the seasoned diplomat that he is: A firm rock amidst Italian quicksands.

But, how frustrated he must have been! It wasn't long ago that, in Rome, RAI Corp. was considered little more than a dumping ground for politically disgraced executives or, worse, a "playpen" for the strong man of the month.

Diffidence from Italy, disregard from the U.S. and criticism from Italian-Americans, who wanted quicker action: that's what Pachetti was faced with. Brick upon brick, patiently, diplomatically without fanfare, he built an organization that brings Italian television to America and Italian recognition in America to Italy.

Today, Pachetti can look back and see his creation: The largest foreign broadcaster in America, bigger than the BBC, ZDF, A2 and Rede Globo. But, I am sure, he also sees the battleground, and the fact that the "war" isn't over yet. For instance, midstream American acceptance is hard to come by ... Italian film and TV programs aren't accepted as readily as British shows.

One can see how U.S. newspapers drool over, let's say, a British documentary on the mating habit of alligators, while ignoring RAI productions such as Marco Polo or Jesus of Nazareth.

Pachetti also coped with Italian producers' lack of marketing ability. For years, the British were content to give their programs almost free to America, so as to get U.S. viewers accustomed to the foreign sound of their cockney dialect. On the other hand, Italian producers and directors, like their French counterparts, would not compromise: Americans have to pay large fees to show uncut versions of their "masterpieces." One can now say, however, that Pachetti has given Italians the tools and the base with which to continue building a presence in the U.S., and Americans a clearing house for a better understanding of Italy.

It is for this that we celebrate Pachetti's 20th Anniversary with RAI Corp. A celebration that Pachetti reluctantly agreed to. He didn't want the spotlight on him. Therefore, we must acknowledge the instrumental help from Umberto Bonetti, Pachetti's future heir at the helm of RAI Corp., and other RAI and SACIS officials in Rome, who pushed for this salute.

This magazine is definitely privileged for this honor. Ironically, I was one of the early Pachetti's critics who, for years, also battled against many of the now former RAI executives -- to the point where Pachetti stopped inviting me to his house during welcoming parties for visiting RAI dignitaries from Rome.

Well done Dr. Pachetti!
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Copyright 1991, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Renato M. Pachetti's RAI Corp. 20-Year Salute; RAI Corp.
Author:Serafini, Dom
Publication:Video Age International
Date:Sep 1, 1991
Words:686
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