European Federation of Journalists

Italy: Outrage over Sanremo festival presenter’s sexist comments on public TV

The presenter of the Italian Sanremo 2020 festival, broadcast by the Italian public television RAI, caused a wave of indignation in Italy after he praised his co-hosts with sexist comments.

The presenter of the Sanremo music festival, Amedeo Umberto Rita Sebastiani, also known as Amadeus, introduced his co-hosts saying they were chosen for being “very beautiful” and referring to one of them as a “sexy icon”.

He added that Francesca Sofia Novello, who is a model, is a “super beautiful” woman, and praised “her ability to be close to a great man (in reference to Valentino Rossi, her partner) by being one step behind”, a statement that outraged many on social media with hundreds calling to boycott the festival.

The International and European Federations of Journalists (IFJ and EFJ) today joined their Italian affiliate, the FNSI, in condemning the comments which are against the principles of promoting gender equality and fighting against the stereotyped representation of women in public media.

The FNSI Commission for Equal Opportunity condemned in a statement the comments and qualified them as “blatant violation” of the public service contract of RAI TV.

“The Sanremo Festival and Rai are set back decades, showing they are incapable of interpreting the demand for change coming from Italian society. We ask Rai if this choosing criterion represents the cultural line of the public service television”, the statement concludes.

The IFJ and EFJ condemned the sexist comments claiming that the role of a public service television must be to fight against women stereotyping, not spreading and strengthening it. Both organisations called on RAI and the Sanremo festival to publicly apologise for this situation and immediately change their narrative on women.