Latest WikiLeaks Cables Reveal Italian Legal Bias in Favor of Mediaset Over Sky-Italia

Allege that the government created favorable terms for Mediaset to acquire and sell content and sell advertising.

 

Italian communications laws are designed to help Mediaset, the broadcast giant controlled by Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, overcome the challenge represented by News Corp. subsidiary Sky-Italia, according to the latest round of cables from the whistle blower site WikiLeaks that came to light Wednesday.

The latest information from WikiLeaks included information from the U.S. Embassy in Rome concerning current minister of economic development Paolo Romani, who, while he was vice-minister of communications in early 2010 pushed through new rules aimed at "strengthening Berlusconi's Mediaset at the expense of Sky," according to reports in the Italian press.

The cable, which was attributed to U.S. Ambassador to Italy David Thorne, alleges that the government created favorable terms for Mediaset to acquire and sell content and sell advertising.

Additionally, the cables said, the so-called "Romani Law" "seems to be written to begin the process of creating an executive power allowing the government to block or censor the Internet." The cables said the laws in this area were so overbearing they would "set a precedent even for a country like China."

The news comes a day after Berlusconi narrowly survived a confidence vote that could have brought down his government. The vote sparked protests in the streets of the capital that Rome major Gianni Alemanno said Wednesday caused €20 million ($26.4 million) worth of damage.

Mediaset, which includes film production and distribution company Medusa, has been in a pitched battle for dominance of the Italian airwaves with Sky-Italia, a clash that pits Berlusconi against fellow media tycoon Rupert Murdoch. The other main broadcaster in Italy is state-owned RAI, which is under indirect control of the prime minister's office.

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