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Writer, Lecturer and Media Reform Campaigner: Dr Benedetta Brevini on Italy, her Career and her Books

Submitted by on March 15, 2013 – 2:34 pmNo Comment

Dr Benedetta Brevini activist, journalist and lecturer.

Dr Benedetta Brevini is coauthor of a book on Wikileaks and its aftermath and is writing a new one on Public Service Broadcasting (PSB) online and media regulation. She worked as a journalist in Milan, London and New York and contributes to The Guardian‘s Comment is Free. She is also a lecturer in Media Policy and Journalism at City University in London and a member of The Media Reform Coalition.

Dr Brevini is not shy. She is one of those people who likes answering questions. She doesn’t circle them; she expands
on them. She doesn’t limit herself to answering: she turns questions into a non-stop flowing conversation, interrupted only by an occasional: “Oh my God, I talk too much.” She has insisted on paying for my coffee. “I’m totally Italian with that,” she says. From her down-to-earth look and relaxed passionate talk, you would not tell that she has to deal with a queue of City University students outside her office waiting for advice on writing essays for her module. Or that she has a PhD in Media and Communications and two books on media ethics ready to be published.

Dr Brevini’s interest in the media started in Modena, Italy, where she took a Bachelor and an LLM in Law. “I choose law because of Mani Pulite, “Clean hands”, an inquiry that sent top Italian politicians and entrepreneurs to jail for corruption in the 90s, everybody wanted to be a judge because [we thought] a new future for our country was possible.” However, Dr Brevini later realised she was much more interested in media regulation: her LLM thesis was on RAI, the Italian state television, and Public Service Broadcasting in America.

In her 20s she was offered to work, unpaid, as an assistant professor in Modena. The PhD she wanted to start had to be delayed. “They told me I had to wait another year because they already had the daughter of a famous professor of constitutional law studying for it, funnily enough,” she says bitterly. She decided to use that time to work in the media to understand the relationship between ownership and regulation better.

Dr Brevini says she was “lucky” because she got into journalism right when Murdoch’s Sky Italia was being launched in 2000. She says: “We were hired not for who we knew, but on the basis of what we were doing: they hired me because of my legal background to do a report on corporations and businesses and they started training me.” She began the Ordine dei Giornalisti, an Italian NCTJ, training scheme in Milan and won a fellowship to work at CNBC in New York, which soon became her favourite city in the world.

In New York she worked for Italian investigative journalism TV programme Report on a series that compared Italian and American media. In the United States she also had the chance to cover Hillary Clinton’s and Elliot Spritzer, New York governor, campaign. But Dr Brevini’s mind was set on the PhD: “I wanted to explore more in depth what shapes the media and how the media should perform.”

Dr Brevini’s Beyond WikiLeaks: Implications for the Future of Communications, Journalism & Society, written with Hintz and McCurdy debates on whether Assange’s website has changed journalism forever or not. Her second book, Public Service Broadcasting Online: A Comparative European Policy Study of PSB 2.0 , studies PSB in many European countries with an eye on media regulation, a topic close to Dr Brevini’s heart. She is part of the Media Reform Coalition, which tries to lobby Parliament into approving new rules after the Leveson report. “I really believe in this and this is what we’re trying to do with the public media campaign, trying to make the media better.”

On working in Italy again Dr Brevini, her hands adding to the conversation and her voice rising with passion, says: “They wouldn’t like me at all!” According to her, if you made it outside Italy, Italian journalists look at you like you are “uptight”, like you have an aura of superiority.

Dr Brevini says even though British tabloids can be very ruthless, they have more ethics than Italian newspapers, which seem unable to distinguish between having a political opinion and being supportive of their owners. “They don’t challenge the system,” she says. “They should stop being PR: they’re marketing people, they’re not journalists.” Frustrated, Dr Brevini says: “They tell me I’m too critical, not part of the system. I don’t want to be part of that system! It’s not right.”

Now that both her books are about to be published, Dr Brevini hopes to write for The Guardian again. “I really enjoyed writing for it: I felt really free, I was finally writing opinion pieces as an opinion writer so I think that’s exactly what I want to do from now on. And I miss doing documentaries.” Dr Brevini catches breath and goes back to her waiting students, wishing she had more time to share her views, as she wanted.

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