No soccer refunds for Mediaset

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ROME -- Mediaset will not be refunded any of the cash it paid for rights to broadcast Italian soccer matches even though controversy has likely made the games attractive to fewer viewers, according to Italian media reports published Friday.

On Jan. 31, Mediaset filed suit against the top soccer league to seek damages against the €61 million ($79.9 million) fee it paid to be the principal broadcaster of the soccer matches in Serie A, the top soccer league. The suit was based on the impact that last year's match rigging scandal had on viewer levels.

Since then, Mediaset's case was seemingly strengthened by violence that erupted during a Feb. 2 match in Catania, Sicily, leaving one police officer dead and a dozen bystanders injured. That weekend's soccer matches were canceled and many upcoming games will be played in empty stadiums until security measures in those arenas is improved.

The government held a series of emergency meetings in the wake of the violence in Catania, in order to assure safety at games and assess the economic impact of any action taken. But the issue of broadcast rights was left out of the final communique on the subject, which was released Thursday.

But the Rome daily Il Messaggero reported Friday that even though fewer matches will be played this season and viewer interest will likely be reduced by the ongoing restrictions, Mediaset stands little chance of getting any of its license fee refunded or reduced.

"There's a risk involved with these contracts and that risk is assumed by the broadcaster," said the unnamed government source quoted by Il Messaggero. "When viewer levels are higher, the broadcaster never asks to pay extra for the rights already acquired. And when they're lower the broadcaster must deal with that as well."

A Mediaset spokesman declined to comment on the story when contacted Friday.

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