Berlusconi son under investigation

As Mediaset, Sky-Italia feud intensifies

ROME -- Italian broadcast giant Mediaset continued its stay in the country's headlines on Monday, thanks to a new set of legal problems for the son of Italian prime minister and Mediaset founder Silvio Berlusconi and a new law barring pornography from daytime pay-per-view channels.

Piersilvio Berlusconi, 40, Mediaset's co-chairman, joined his father as one of the figures named in an investigations into $34 million in alleged kickbacks and bribes tied to the acquisition of Hollywood content for Mediaset and Medusa, the company's silver screen subsidiary. Though the elder Berlusconi has been hounded by legal problems for years, it is the first time the son has been named in an investigation of this size.

In a statement, Piersilvio Berlusconi brushed the charges aside, saying they were a politically motivated attack against his father.

Meanwhile, a set of new media rules set to be debated in parliament starting Monday would block day-time skin flicks on pay-per view channels in a move being interpreted as a thinly-veiled attack by the Berlusconi-led government against Rupert Murdoch's Sky-Italia, the only Italian broadcaster showing daytime pornography on pay-per view channels.

Government officials have said the motive for banning daytime porn films on pay-per view is to promote public decency.

Last year, Sky-Italia earned an estimated €45 million ($64 million) from pornography programming, around half of its total revenue from pay-per view channels but still dwarfed by the company's overall revenue stream, worth € 2.6 billion ($3.7 billion) last year.

Mediaset and Sky-Italia have clashed on several fronts in recent months as the two companies grow to challenge each other's traditional strongholds.
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