On June 12th, Silvio Berlusconi, the media icon who dominated Italian politics and public opinion for the past three decades, passed away at the age of 86. A charismatic and multifaceted personality, media mogul, and four-time Prime Minister of Italy, Berlusconi was an undisputed protagonist of the Italian and international media agenda, capable of attracting unprecedented attention to our country. In his long and controversial political and entrepreneurial career, it was particularly his relationship with the media that had a central and significant impact on the national political scene, raising questions about media pluralism and freedom of expression in Italy.
Media Empire and Relationship with the Media
Before his victory in the 1994 political elections, and starting from his holding company Fininvest, Berlusconi built a vast media empire by acquiring important television networks, including Canale 5, Italia 1, and Rete 4, along with a series of other companies involved in publishing, sports, and cinema.
Silvio Berlusconi’s influence on the Italian media is unparalleled because he controlled a significant portion of the country’s most popular television channels and newspapers. This position not only allowed him to reach a wide audience but also enabled him to carefully craft his public image. Furthermore, his control over various media platforms empowered him to shape the agenda-setting, deciding which news and topics should receive greater attention and how to best present them to the Italian public.
The Berlusconi Brand
During his decade-long career, Silvio Berlusconi demonstrated extraordinary ability in creating a personal and unique brand, to the extent that Massimo Arcangeli in Domani refers specifically to the “Human Brand” of Berlusconi. One of the distinctive features of Berlusconi’s personal brand is his magnetic charisma. Through his direct and unfiltered communication style and his imposing media presence, he was able to engage and captivate the Italian and international audience. Despite being an extraordinary individual, the former president showed remarkable skill in speaking to ordinary people, identifying himself as one of them and establishing a sense of empathy and connection that made him popular among a wide range of diverse voters. Through his extensive use of facial expressions, emphatic gestures, and an engaging tone of voice, many of his political and television speeches are still considered memorable and captivating today.
Furthermore, Berlusconi was able to build an image of himself as a successful businessman, skillfully drawing on the American imagery of the self-made man and reaching the pinnacle of the business world. His entrepreneurial skills contributed to shaping the image of an enterprising leader capable of bringing his private sector success into the public realm. His personal brand has been associated primarily with concepts such as productivity, efficiency, and business acumen, qualities that many voters considered desirable in a political leader. This perception was reinforced by his incredible media exposure: by leveraging his media control, he always placed himself at the center of public attention, making the image of the Brand Berlusconi pervasive: charismatic, direct and efficient.
In summary, the phenomenon of Silvio Berlusconi as a “Human Brand” has marked a unprecedented era in Italian politics and communication. Regardless of personal opinions about his actions, it is undeniable that his ability to capture attention and influence public opinion, through his charisma, and direct, empathetic approach, was remarkable. There is no doubt that his skills in creating a media empire and shaping public perception will remain a topic of study and debate in the political and cultural landscape in the years to come.
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