Never a man who could be accused of shrinking violet tendencies, Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian Prime Minister, has devised a new plan to keep himself in the headlines: a good news taskforce to counter the slurs of the foreign media. Berlusconi is on a PR offensive against the world.
The Italian PM has never had trouble getting his message across in his home country; his Mediaset company counts within its components three national television channels, a publishing house, and a leading advertising and publicity agency. However, he feels the negative coverage he receives in the foreign press taints his image and the image of Italy as a whole.
Berlusconi is no stranger to controversy, he is currently facing charges of bribing British tax lawyer David Mills, but it is a succession of PR gaffes, which make Prince Philip look a master of diplomacy, and his involvement with escort girls, that have done most damage.
Eager to repair his reputation and draw attention away from sex scandals, Berlusconi turned to Michela Vittoria Brambilla, tourism minister and a former beauty contestant, to announce "a crack team of young journalists and communications experts would be assembled to stamp out bad news."
Their second task will be to "bombard those newsrooms with truthful and positive news", and reveal to the world "a generous, truthful and audacious Italy – the Italy of entrepreneurs, art, cultural events and our products," she told Corriere della Sera.
The taskforce will be set up within the next month, so it is too early to tell if the initiative has cowed the foreign press into finding a new respect for someone with unnaturally dark hair for a man of 73 (that should keep the crack team busy for a while). According to the Independent, Giovanna Melandri, from the opposition Democratic Party, said: "Not content with controlling most of the Italian media [Mr Berlusconi] now wants to run the foreign press, too."
If you're going to mention Italy's stunted economic growth, corruption and one of Europe's highest national debts, make sure you get on message and mention the wine and frescoes.
Neil Willis is a former freelancer with experience in the charity and consumer sectors, business to business publishing and national newspapers. He now works for an international news digest.