Italy media reforms march forward

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ROME -- Italy's controversial media reform package will go through as planned despite a recent government crisis, Minister of Culture Francesco Rutelli said Monday.

When Prime Minister Romano Prodi temporarily resigned Feb. 21 prior to a confidence vote in his government, it cast his slate of government programs in doubt -- including a media reform plan some say is unusually tough on Mediaset, the broadcaster owned by Prodi's chief political rival Silvio Berlusconi.

The plan includes rules that require both Mediaset and state broadcaster RAI to switch one network each to high-tech digital technologies by 2009 and caps any company's share of the television ad market to 45%. All told, Mediaset estimates that the reforms will slice more than $1 billion from its bottom line.

Prodi's troubles buoyed Mediaset shares and those of other broadcasters thought to be impacted by the plans, based on speculation that the government might lack the political strength to push the reforms through.

But Rutelli said Monday that the reform -- known in Italy as the Gentiloni Reform, named for Minister of Communications Paolo Gentiloni -- will move forward despite recent problems.

"The reforms are already in parliament and they will soon be moving forward," Rutelli said.
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