Italy wants news fair, balanced

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Italy's Communications Authority on Thursday fined broadcaster Mediaset €100,000 ($155,000) for providing unfair coverage of Italy's upcoming elections, and two other broadcasters were warned to adjust their coverage or face sanctions.

The fine and warnings were an unusual move for a regulator that rarely gets involved in political issues.

The elections in Italy, which are scheduled for April 13-14, feature Mediaset's leading shareholder and three-time Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi facing off against former Rome Mayor Walter Veltroni.

A Rome court ordered the regulator to study election coverage after a complaint was filed by a Veltroni ally in late February. The findings were presented Monday and the decisions were an-nounced Thursday.

In addition to levying a fine against Mediaset for its general coverage of the election so far, the regulator required all three Mediaset networks, state-controlled RAI Uno and Telecom Italia Media's La 7 to make their coverage of the major candidates more even-handed or face fines.

A spokesman for Mediaset declined comment on the fine, which can be appealed. RAI said it will review its election coverage, while a spokesman for La 7 did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment.

The regulator did not say which candidate each broadcaster ap-peared to favor, but the local media has reported that Mediaset coverage has strongly tilted toward Berlusconi, while RAI appears to slightly favor Veltroni. It is not clear which candidate La 7's coverage appears to have favored.

The regulator said it will continue to monitor coverage and make another ruling within 15 days if it appears that potentially slanted coverage has not been remedied.
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