Beleaguered Berlusconi wants to found film school


Media kingpin and former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi on Friday said that he wants to found a university that could include a program dedicated to film arts, an unexpected announcement that comes as the billionaire's lawyers attempt to further delay his trial for corruption.

Berlusconi, who is recovering from heart surgery in the U.S., said he wants the university to be based on "liberal" ideas that would act as a counterbalance to what he said were "communist" beliefs proliferated in Italian universities. In the past, Berlusconi has blamed many of his problems on leftist conspiracies.

The name of the institution would be "Berlusconi University" or something similar, and would likely be located near Milan. There was no indication of when it would open its doors, how large it would be or how much it would cost to create it.

Berlusconi, whose center-right coalition was ousted from power in April, is Italy's richest man, with an estimated net worth of some $12 billion. Most of his wealth comes from his media holdings, which include the three-network Mediaset broadcast giant, a major newspaper, a large news magazine, a publisher, an advertising company and film distribution giant Medusa.

According to the local media, Berlusconi's plans for the university include calling in favors from world leaders -- such as U.S. President George W. Bush, U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair and Russian leaders Mikhail Gorbachev and Vladimir Putin -- to have them drop by as guest lecturers.

The university is to include four main faculties: economics, political science, jurisprudence and communications. The faculty for communications would include a program on film arts, according to media reports.

Meanwhile, Berlusconi's trial on corruption charges is set to begin again Jan. 12 after a series of delays. On Friday, Berlusconi's lawyers filed a new motion in a Rome court to have Judge Edoardo D'Avossa removed from the case. The motion cites a conflict of interest stemming from the fact that D'Avossa has officiated previous trials involving Berlusconi's Mediaset. But according to legal pundits, that motion will likely be thrown out, since the issue has already been addressed in a previous motion that was rejected.

In the past, Berlusconi's defense team has sought to delay cases as much as possible, often until the statute of limitations has run out. Though Berlusconi has been dogged by legal problems for more than a decade, he has never been convicted of any significant charge and has always maintained his innocence.