Italy state TV pulls show over charges of sexism, racism

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Italian state television RAI said on Monday it was scrapping a popular weekly talk show after the program was widely attacked for using racist and sexist stereotypes about east European women.

A furor erupted on social media and among politicians after the program, “Let’s discuss it on Saturday” (Parliamone Sabato) featured a debate about why Italian men had good reason to choose east European women over Italian ones.

RAI’s director general Antonio Dall’Orto said the Saturday afternoon show “undoubtedly contradicted” RAI’s values, while Andrea Fabiano, head of the RAI 1 channel that broadcasts the program, offered his “sincere apologies for what happened.”

Thousands of women from Russia, Ukraine, Poland, Romania and other eastern European countries have migrated to Italy over the last 20 years, often working as domestic helpers. Many have married Italian men.

Among alleged advantages of eastern European women cited by the show were that, unlike their Italian counterparts, they are “always sexy and don’t wear baggy pyjamas” and they “forgive unfaithfulness”.

It also debated other claims such as that, unlike Italians, they “learn how to do housework from a young age” and were “willing to let their man take the decisions.”

Several senior politicians expressed outrage at the program.

“It’s unacceptable that in a television program women are presented like domestic animals to be appreciated for their meekness, obedience and subservience,” said Chamber of Deputies speaker Laura Boldrini.

Popular discontent toward RAI has grown since a recent reform by former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi incorporated the license fee in people’s electricity bills, making it much harder to avoid paying it.