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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: September 21, 2011 @ 8:00 am

    Bunga bunga cha cha cha: the BBC vs Silvio Berlusconi

    Laura Slattery

    “Standard & Poor’s declassa l’Italia,” read the headline for Italian daily Il Tempo, but for diplomacy-eschewing Silvio Berlusconi, there’s been even more bad news this week. He’s being sued by the BBC for making what The Daily Mail has dubbed a “porno” version of Strictly Come Dancing. (I’ve not seen it myself.) The Berlusconi-owned broadcaster Mediaset stands accused of abusing the copyright of BBC Worldwide’s prized format export, in the process of which it has replaced its nudge-nudge-wink-wink subtext with a level of obvious bunga-bunga-ness that would make a Pussycat Doll blush, never mind Head Judge Len.

    Presumably, this is so the copycat show, Baila!, lives up to the standards of Berlusconi’s notorious sex parties, where the dancing was apparently of the pole and not the Paso Doble variety – though, funnily enough, when it came to matching up partners, similar care and attention was paid to the issue of compatible heights. Italy’s own Vincent Simone slipping a few cheeky ganchos into an Argentine tango with Edwina Currie just isn’t the kind of thing that cuts it for screen sizzle on Mediaset’s Canale 5 station. Who’d have thought?

    BBC Worldwide licensed the Italian rights to Dancing with the Stars (as it’s known internationally) to the public broadcaster Rai six years ago as part of its multimillion-earning cunning plan to teach the world how to turn learning the quickstep into a “journey”. Sold to 35 countries, it’s one of the most successful reality television formats in the tear-splattered history of reality television. Now Rai’s lawyers are, ahem, arm in arm with BBC Worldwide in its bid to slap down the alleged copyright infringement by Mediaset.

    The Berlusconi company, meanwhile, says that Baila! is based on an entirely different South American format called Bailando Por Un Sueno or Dancing for a Dream, created by Televisa Mexico. A version of this show broadcast in Argentina featured a topless model simulating sex during one of the dances – or so I’ve read. (I’ve not seen it myself.) It really does sound like it’s just one octogenarian, a wardrobe rail of sparkly body stockings and any number of Craig Revel-Horwood panto-snarls away from the real deal.

    In any case, I’m still too traumatised by that footage of Berlusconi and the traffic warden to even contemplate what his broadcasting executives might do with the rumba, so more power to the BBC and Rai. By rights, however, the Rome court with which they’ve lodged legal papers should be aware that there is really only one fair way to settle this dispute – a dance-off between Silvio and David Cameron. With Angela Merkel, Nicolas Sarkozy, Barack Obama – and Arlene Phillips – as the judges, obviously.

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