Friday 30 June 2023 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Friday. 30/6/2023

The Monocle Minute

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Opinion / Chiara Rimella

Split screen

State broadcasters around the world should have a responsibility to impartiality but that journalistic ideal isn’t always easy to uphold. In Italy, new governments often have an impact on reshuffles at Rai, the country’s public broadcasting company, and political favour is a decisive factor in who’s going to get the jobs. Even so, the sweeping changes slated for Rai’s line-up have attracted plenty of attention since the rise to power of Giorgia Meloni, Italy’s far-right prime minister.

First came the resignation in early May of managing director Carlo Fuortes, who said that he felt “pressured” by supervisory authorities as he resisted government-led changes to the editorial line. Then there was the exodus of executives and presenters who disagreed with the ideological shift. Some of the broadcaster’s most popular faces – from mild-mannered Sunday-night host Fabio Fazio and his foul-mouthed sidekick, Luciana Littizzetto (pictured, on right, with Fazio), to tough interviewer Lucia Annunziata – have flown the nest. A recently announced schedule also revealed the arrival of a few new names willing to toe the line, including Pino Insegno, a party-faithful presenter and actor who was on the campaign trail with Meloni.

The latest development concerns the broadcaster’s service contract, a series of employee guidelines that was agreed this week. The document avoids any references to the importance of investigative journalism to Rai’s mission, while stipulating that the output must “contribute to the promotion of an increased birth rate and of parenthood” (how this will be implemented on-air remains to be seen – late-night saucy films, perhaps?). It’s a small detail in a far bigger set of changes but it is indicative of an approach that prioritises propaganda over information. What’s at stake isn’t just Rai’s reputation but the value that audiences are willing to put on journalism – and the level of trust that they can maintain in it.

Chiara Rimella is Monocle’s executive editor. For more opinion, analysis and insight, subscribe to Monocle today.

Image: Getty Images

Affairs / China

Under control

This week, China announced a new foreign relations law – taking effect tomorrow – which will extend President Xi Jinping’s control over the country’s response to external sanctions. It will give the government a greater legal basis to enact countermeasures against what it deems to be a threat to its security and development interests. The move comes at a time of worsening US-China relations and shows Xi’s desire to push back against recent US initiatives such as export controls on advanced semiconductors and chip-making equipment.

“China already has a tremendous arsenal of laws and regulations that it can bring to bear against domestic or foreign businesses,” David Schlesinger, an independent adviser and commentator on media, journalism and China, tells The Monocle Minute. “The new law is a warning to Western companies – if the US and its allies try to sanction China in the future, the companies will face retaliation.”

Image: Shutterstock

Politics / Timor-Leste

United front

Timor-Leste will inaugurate national independence hero and former president Xanana Gusmão (pictured) as prime minister tomorrow. The southeast Asian nation will also welcome a new coalition government formed after the election in May in which Gusmão’s party, the National Congress for Timorese Reconstruction (CNRT), won nearly half of the seats in parliament. CNRT now controls both branches of government, following Nobel laureate José Ramos-Horta’s landslide victory in last year’s presidential election. The country has been enduring political deadlock and economic hardship since the pandemic began.

But CNRT’s rise has the potential to kick-start some progress, notably the development of the Greater Sunrise gas fields in the Timor Sea – untapped oil reserves that could net the country billions of dollars. The project has been held up by disputes between the partners of the Australian and Timorese joint venture over which country will connect to the pipeline; both Gusmão and Ramos-Horta are committed to bringing it to Timor. If they manage to do so, it would be a huge coup for Timor-Leste.

Business / Canada

Sea change

This summer, Cascadia Seaweed, one of Canada’s largest kelp growers, plans to set a new course for commercial seaweed agriculture and lay the foundations for untapped markets in the sector. Founded in 2019 by retired naval captain Michael Williamson, geologist William Collins and oceanographer Tony Ethier, the company initially produced seaweed-flavoured snacks and spices. Now, however, it plans to convert its successful spring harvest into a liquid extract for plant food, a biostimulant for crops and a food supplement for cattle that reduces methane emissions.

According to Williamson, Cascadia Seaweed hopes to lead the way for local growers seeking fresh opportunities. “We have done the hard work of setting the sector up,” he tells Monocle during a recent visit. “But the demand and variety of products is such that it would be a matter of co-operation, not competition.”

For more on Cascadia Seaweed and solution-driven stories on business innovation, pick up a copy of the July/August issue of Monocle, featuring our Quality of Life special.

Image: Alamy

Fashion / London

Waste not, want not

This week, the European Commission announced that it wants new regulations requiring fashion companies to produce clothes more sustainably to be in place by 2028. The measures will force firms to collect a certain percentage of their textile waste, implement stricter eco-label regulations to curb greenwashing or ban the destruction of unsold clothing.

Spanish company Inditex, which includes Zara and Massimo Dutti in its portfolio, and Swedish conglomerate H&M are among the multinational companies that will be required to take responsibility for their environmental impact. It’s a significant step towards minimising European fashion’s carbon footprint but more needs to be done on a global scale in order for a real transformation to take place.

Image: Alamy

Monocle Radio / The Menu

La Condesa, Mexico City

This week we head to the chic neighbourhood of La Condesa in Mexico City, known for its tree-lined avenues and slow pace of life. Monocle’s Mathilde Felter guides us through the area’s vibrant restaurant and bar scenes.

Monocle Films / Culture

Portuguese problem-solving

Lisbon-based architect and artist Joana Astolfi takes us on a journey into the Portuguese concept of desenrascanço, which means “finding an improvised solution to a problem”. She explains what it tells us about Portuguese culture and how it’s embodied in an unusual structure in Comporta.


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