Italian media law may get extension

TV-print cross-ownership law to expire in 6 months

ROME -- With six months remaining until controls limiting cross-ownership in the television and print sectors expire, opposition lawmakers are scrambling to extend the prohibition by an additional five years.

The four-year-old Gaspari Law makes it illegal for major broadcasters to acquire control of major print media, such as newspapers or magazines. The limit is designed to prevent any company from having too strong a hold on the country's media.

But lawmakers in the minority said Thursday they are looking to extend the prohibition for an additional five years based on concerns that Mediaset, the broadcast giant owned by Silvio Berlusconi, or Telecom Italia, which owns the La 7 network, could take advantage of deflated share prices in the print media sector to gain a foothold in the sector. Legislators said a measure would be introduced for debate by the end of the first week of May.

Analysts said the measure would likely need the support for at least some of Berlusconi's allies to pass through parliament, since the Berlusconi-led coalition holds a strong majority in both houses of parliament.