Italian Media Gives Muted Response to British Royals' Berlusconi Suit

Commentators say the incident is unlikely to make an impression with a public accustomed to news of Berlusconi's "Bunga Bunga orgies."

ROME -- The Italian media collectively shrugged on news that a French tabloid, owned by Italian media tycoon and former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, was facing legal action from Britain’s royal family after it published topless photos of Kate Middleton on vacation in Provence in southern France.

Several news sites published the news, in which the magazine Closer -- part of the massive media holdings owned by Berlusconi’s holding company Fininvest -- published topless photos of Kate Middleton. But the news of the day featuring Berlusconi involved his plans to run for prime minister again next year and his handling of the AC Milan pro soccer team he owns.

Il Giornale, a daily newspaper owned by Berlusconi, ran a short piece that said the 75-year-old leader had been unaware of the decision to run the raunchy photos. Corriere della Sera, the country’s largest daily, called the news “embarrassing” but ran only a small story on the topic, buried on the newspaper’s home page below stories about a police chase in Milan and a story about Pope Benedict XVI's arrival in Beirut. 

“I’m not sure the story of a topless royal on vacation resonates in a country inoculated against certain kinds of developments by continued exposure to news about Bunga Bunga orgies and the prime minister paying under-age cabaret dancers to have sex with him,” said frequent media commentator Marco Bianchi, referring to two of Berlusconi’s most colorful scandals as prime minister.

Though Berlusconi does not appear likely to be named in the case against Closer, he is no stranger to legal woes. Berlusconi is currently involved in three separate criminal and civil trials alleging charges ranging from tax evasion and corruption to paying a minor for sex.

In addition to Closer, Berlusconi's media holdings include three television networks in Italy and one in Spain, a major publiching house, a leading advertising buyer, and cinema production and distribution giant Medusa.

This is not the first high-profile media-related legal case between the UK and Italy involving Berlusconi, who sued the London magazine The Economist for libel several times over a series of critical stories about his political leadership, including cover stories with headlines that read “Why Silvio Berlusconi is unfit to lead Italy” from 2001; “Basta – Time for Italy to sack Berlusconi” from 2006; “Mamma mia: here we go again” from 2008; and “The man who screwed an entire country” from last year.

Berlusconi, a billionaire, resigned as prime minister last year amid personal legal issues and fears Italy would fall victim to the European debt crisis.

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