Rai 1 is the flagship television channel of Rai, Italy's national state broadcaster, and the most-watched television channel in the country. It is a free-to-air, general-entertainment channel, mainly focused on shows, movies and public-service messages; its direct competitor is Mediaset's Canale 5.
The first set of programming for Rai 1 was almost completely educational with no advertising, except for the popular Carosello. Early shows were meant to teach a common language to a country torn apart by World War II. Shows like Non è mai troppo tardi... were simply shot in a classroom set and meant to help with reconstruction. While televisions were not widely available nor affordable, those who could spend the money on them became community leaders and often invited the neighborhood to visit. Bars and cafés turned from places where men would meet to argue or play cards into miniature cinemas where arguments over what show to watch would break out. Women and children were also more accepted inside the bars, as a result of the lack of men post-war and their need to enter working society. Churches also bought televisions are a means of drawing people to spend time as part of those communities.
The channel launched an HDTV 1080i simulcast in September 2013, available nationwide on subscription-television providers and on DTT in few Italian provinces. Previously, HD programs used to be aired on Rai HD.
Directors of Rai 1
- Mimmo Scarano 1976 - 1979
- Paolo Valmarana : 1980
- Emmanuele Milano 1980 - 1985
- Giuseppe Rossini 1986 - 1988
- Carlo Fuscagni 1989 - 1993
- Nadio Delai 1994 - 1994
- Brando Giordani 1995 - 1996
- Giovanni Tantillo 1996 - 1996
- Agostino Saccà 1998 - 2000
- Pier Luigi Celli : 2000
- Maurizio Beretta 2000 - 2001
- Agostino Saccà 2001 - 2002
- Fabrizio Del Noce 2002 - 2009
- Mauro Mazza 2009 - 2012
- Giancarlo Leone 2012 - 2016
- Andrea Fabiano 2016 - 2017
- Angelo Teodoli: 2017 - 2018
- Teresa De Santis: 2018 -
- TG1, the main news service, directed by Andrea Montinari, produced in HD from 2014
- TV7, weekly late-night news programme, produced in HD from 2014
- Rai Meteo, weather bulletin, produced in HD from 2014
- Speciale TG1, enquiring programme, produced in HD from 2013
- Porta a Porta, late-night talk show hosted by Bruno Vespa
- Tale e Quale Show
- La Corrida
Documentaries and Culture
- SuperQuark, hosted by Piero Angela, produced in HD from 2014
- Quark Atlante, SuperQuark Saturday afternoon spin-off, focusing on wilderness and adventure
- Lineablu, focusing on the Mediterranean Sea and shores, hosted by Donatella Bianchi, produced in HD from 2012
- Linea Verde, focusing on wilderness, agriculture and rural cooking, hosted by Patrizio Roversi and Daniela Ferolla, produced in HD from 2013
- Overland World Truck Expedition, adventure and documentary expeditions, produced in HD from 2013
- Passaggio a Nord-Ovest, focusing on history and archaeology, hosted by Alberto Angela
- Cinematografo, focusing on the seventh art, hosted by Rai 1 deputy-controller Gigi Marzullo
- Rewind – Visioni private, focusing on TV history, hosted by Cinzia Tani
- Magazzini Einstein, focusing on arts and culture
- Il Commissario Montalbano, with Luca Zingaretti, produced in HD since Season 9
- Il giovane Montalbano (prequel of "Il Commissario Montalbano"), with Michele Riondino and Alessio Vassallo, produced in HD
- Don Matteo, with Terence Hill, Nino Frassica and Natalie Guetta, produced in HD since Season 7
- Un passo dal cielo, with Terence Hill, produced in HD
- Fuoriclasse, with Luciana Littizzetto, produced in HD
- Che Dio ci aiuti, with Elena Sofia Ricci, produced in HD
- Der letzte Bulle, with Henning Baum and Maximilian Grill , produced in HD
- Provaci ancora prof, with Veronica Pivetti and Enzo Decaro, produced in HD since Season 5
- Questo nostro amore, historical drama with Anna Valle and Neri Marcorè, produced in HD
- Um Himmels Willen, with Fritz Wepper, produced in HD since Season 8
- Un medico in famiglia, with Lino Banfi, Giulio Scarpati and Margot Sikabonyi, produced in HD since Season 6
- Una pallottola nel cuore, with Gigi Proietti, produced in HD
Until the autumn 1976/77 season, regular broadcasting was in monochrome (black and white), with very few exceptions (shown in bold). Regular colour broadcasting began during the winter 1976/77 season.
- Un due tre... aka 1, 2, 3, satire/variety show starring Raimondo Vianello e Ugo Tognazzi. Considered one of the most influential shows in Italian television history, it was discontinued in 1959 after the duo performed an ironic sketch about then-president of the Republic, Giovanni Gronchi (six seasons, from 19 January 1954 to 2 August 1959).
- Lascia o raddoppia, one-hour-long game show hosted by Mike Bongiorno (1955–59, on Thursday, at 9:00 PM, except for the first season shown on Saturday night).
- Primo applauso, early talent show hosted by Enzo Tortora and Silvana Pampanini. The clap-o-metre was introduced to Italian television during this programme. Magician Silvan and singer Adriano Celentano debuted in Primo Applauso (from 29 April 1956 until December of the same year, Sunday night, 9:00 PM).
- Telematch, variety/game show hosted by Enzo Tortora and Silvio Noto (from 6 January 1957 to July 1958, Sunday night at 9:15 PM).
- La macchina per vivere, health care/educational programme about the human body (two seasons, from 31 January 1957, Thursday night at 10:45 PM).
- Il Musichiere, one-hour-long Italian version of Name That Tune, hosted by Mario Riva until his death (1957–60, on Saturday nights at 9:00 PM).
- Campanile Sera, one-hour-long game show, hosted by Enzo Tortora, Mike Bongiorno and Enza Sampò (1959–61, on Thursday at 9:00 PM). One of the various games on the show, "il gioco dei prezzi", was an early Italian incarnation of The Price Is Right franchise.
- Studio Uno, Saturday night variety show, hosted mainly by Mina (1961–66, 9:00 PM).
- L'amico del giaguaro, Saturday night comedy/variety show, hosted by Corrado and starring Gino Bramieri, Marisa Del Frate and Raffaele Pisu. Broadcast during 1961, 1962 and 1964 summer seasons, at 9:00 PM.
- Giocagiò, daytime half-hour-long Italian version of the BBC children show Play School (1966–70, Monday, Wednesday and Friday, at 5:00 PM)
- L'Odissea, eight one hour episodes of a screenplay of Homer's Odyssey, directed by Franco Rossi and starring Bekim Fehmiu as Odysseus and Irene Papas as Penelope. This Italian-German-French-Yugoslavian co-production was broadcast for the first time in Italy from 24 March 1968, on Sunday night, at 9:05 PM. In colour, but the program was shown in black and white in Italy the very first time it was aired.
- Eneide, seven one hour episodes of a screenplay of Virgil's Aeneid, directed by Franco Rossi and starring Giulio Brogi (Aeneas) and Olga Karlatos (Dido). This Italian-German-French co-production was broadcast for the first time in Italy from 19 December 1971, on Sundays, at 9:00 PM and in Germany from 5 November 1972. In colour.
- Le avventure di Pinocchio, five one hour episodes of a screenplay of Collodi's children novel The Adventures of Pinocchio, directed by Luigi Comencini and starring Nino Manfredi (Geppetto), Gina Lollobrigida (the Fairy with Turquoise Hair), Franco Franchi (the Cat), Ciccio Ingrassia (the Fox), Vittorio De Sica (the Judge) and child actor Andrea Balestri in the main role of Pinocchio. This very successful French-German-Italian coproduction aired for the first time in Italy on Saturday night from 8 April 1972, at 9:00 PM. The French version is about 40 minutes longer and is divided into 6 episodes. In colour.
- Fatti e fattacci, variety show, hosted by Gigi Proietti and Ornella Vanoni, direct by Antonello Falqui (four episodes, from 15 February 1975, Saturday night at 8:40 PM). In colour.
- Dov'è Anna, drama/giallo miniseries in seven episodes, starring Scilla Gabel and Mariano Rigillo, broadcast on Tuesday, from 13 January 1976, at 8:45 PM.
- Albert e l'Uomo Nero (the title, roughly translated, means Albert and the Bogeyman), drama/giallo miniseries in three episodes, starring Nando Gazzolo, Franco Graziosi and then kid Claudio Cinquepalmi in the title role of Albert. Avant-garde soundtrack by Franco Micalizzi. It was perhaps the last successful Italian black and white drama series, aired on 21 March (Sunday), 23 March (Tuesday) and 28 March (Sunday) nights at 8:45 PM.
- Bontà loro, one-hour-long late night talk show hosted by Maurizio Costanzo, considered by some critics to be the first modern talk show in Italian television (two seasons, from 18 October 1976, Monday night, 10:45 PM). In colour from 1977.
- Non Stop, one-hour-long comedy consisting of a collage of sketches performed by young and (then) unknown comedians – among these future theatrical actor and director Carlo Verdone and actors Massimo Troisi and Lello Arena. Broadcast for two seasons (1977-8 and 1978-9), on Thursday night, at 8:40 PM.