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PBS Series On The Medicis "Tasteless," Sons of Italy® Charges

Press Contact: Kylie Cafiero, (202) 547-2900

WASHINGTON, February 23, 2004 ­ The Order Sons of Italy in America® (OSIA), the nation's oldest and largest organization for men and women of Italian heritage, has sent a stinging rebuke to the Public Broadcasting System (PBS) after reviewing its new series, The Medicis: Godfathers of the Renaissance.

The four-part series traces the ascent of one of Italy's most famous families who largely were responsible for the Renaissance. The series, however, presents the Medicis as Mafia chieftains while the related PBS Web site, features instruction on how to become a medieval mobster and gives the biographies of Cosimo the Elder, Lorenzo the Magnificent and other Medicis in the form of "rap sheets."

The site also attacks the Roman Catholic Church. For example, in the Bankers to God section, it states: "If you are going to have a partner in crime, who better in Medieval Italy than the Catholic Church?" The Guys and Dolls section offers lurid details about the reported sex lives of the Medicis and the Popes.

OSIA sent a letter criticizing the series and the Web site to PBS President and CEO Pat Mitchell on Feb. 18 and is urging other Italian American organizations and all private citizens to contact Ms. Mitchell as well.

"We do not challenge the historical and political realities of renaissance Florence no more than we would the political skullduggery that occurred in England, Spain, France and the Holy Roman Empire five hundred years ago," wrote OSIA National President Joseph Sciame. "Can we now expect PBS to produce equally salacious documentaries and Web sites about Queen Elizabeth I, Henry VIII, Louis XIV, Charles V and their courts?"

OSIA sent a similar letter Ron Devillier, the president of Devillier, Donegan Enterprises (DDE), the company that co-produced the series. DDE also created the Web site. Copies of both letters were sent to Alberto Ibarguen, chairman of PBS Board of Directors.

In its letter, OSIA asked PBS to remove offensive materials from the Web site and urged PBS to repair some of the damage the Medici series will do by producing a serious documentary about Italian Americans and their history.

"Until that happens," Sciame said, "we are advising all Italian Americans to withhold their contributions to their local PBS stations."

To protest this series, write to:

Pat Mitchell, President and CEO
Public Broadcasting System
1320 Braddock Place
Alexandria, VA 22314

Ron Devillier, President and CEO
Devillier, Donegan Enterprises
4401 Connecticut NW (#601)
Washington, DC 20008

Alberto Ibarguen
Publisher, Miami Herald
One Herald Plaza
Miami, FL 33132-1693

OSIA has more than 600,000 members and supporters and a network of more than 700 chapters coast to coast. OSIA works at community, national and international levels to promote the heritage and culture of Italian Americans, the nation's fifth largest ethnic group, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.