January 3, 1954: Italian television is born

It would be nice if on 3 January each year it became one of those many days dedicated to something. Three January: the day of television, or rather of public television in which we remember how TV, as well as an industry capable of producing profit and employment, is considered a means not only of technological development but also of progress of an entire society: economic, civil, cultural. On January 3, 1954, from the studios of Turin, Rai began its regular television programming, marking the beginning of a new phase in national history. In that historical period, which is commonly referred to as ‘reconstruction’, the advent of TV gives the process of social rebirth a particular form. We can not say that it is the final stage, given that the so-called boom came several years later. But the presence of television inserts a new fundamental character in the path of reconstruction: modernity. Here’s what we should celebrate every three of January: the symbolic entry of our country into modernity. Certainly it may seem paradoxical to identify modernity with a period that, in relation to television, has left us countless anecdotes based on moralistic censures such as those on dancers’ clothing and political ones on the texts of Dario Fo in Canzonissima; there is the absurdity of this censorship obsession in the choice of an announcer who, having to present the prime time program schedule, is faced with the title of a western film, The Indian lover: but the word lover, which in the lexicon of the time refers to extramarital affairs, it is not suited to that Rai and is there ridiculously transformed into an unlikely “Indian wife”, however, immediately denied by the headlines of the film that show the original title! Yet the TV that becomes so ridiculous is the same that makes courageous, intelligent choices ahead of its time, progressively spreading in the homes of Italians who will quickly become millions from the few tens of thousands of subscribers in 1954. First of all, the bourgeois houses that own the television whose cost is still relevant; only the sixties will see a wider extension of the audience, and only the seventies the presence of TV in all houses. But even in the early years of public TV, its presence in society is strong, significant beyond the still low numbers of subscriptions. There are bars and movie theaters that suspend their programming on Thursdays to make room for “Lascia o raddoppia?”, there is a tendency to gather family groups in front of the TV set of relatives or neighbors on the occasion of the most popular programs. And then there is the public debate on the new medium, the criticism of weekly magazines and newspapers, the adventure of Telescuola.
It is worth mentioning two examples of this modernizing role of Italian TV. This is not the linguistic unification of the nation to which TV undoubtedly made a decisive contribution, nor of the popular success of some genres such as quizzes or entertainment; rather, it is a program that is so snubbed in life as regret after his death as Carosello, born three years after the start of Italian TV and lasted for twenty years. That simple advertising container was in fact an element of transformation of Italian society, mirror and engine of the great changes taking place. In the moment in which it proposed to Italians the first products of the consumer society, drinks, appliances, food and packaged clothes, it also promoted new attitudes, new social behaviors, a new role for women, new tastes, a new lifestyle. The other experience that can not be forgotten is the theatrical, the staging of dramaturgical works or novels in the famous form of the  television drama. It was thanks to this experience that the texts by Dickens and Dostoevskij, Sofocle and Tennessee Williams, Pirandello and Svevo, works and authors that did not belong to the high school scholastic programs, arrived in Italian homes; it was a choice of extraordinary cultural modernity.

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