Italy's 'Silvio' feud heats up

Media rivals in war of words over film

ROME -- The unofficial grudge match between Silvio Berlusconi's Mediaset and News Corp.'s Italian subsidiary Sky-Italia is getting personal.

The feud revved up after Sky aired a controversial film that Berlusconi allies say showed a "profound" disrespect for the media tycoon-turned-prime minister.

The film in question is "Shooting Silvio," a low-budget 96-minute film from Berardo Carboni that tells the story of a disenfranchised youth who fantasizes about killing Berlusconi. The film, which stirred a similar controversy two years ago when it screened during the Marche du Film, aired Monday on Sky-Italia.

Since then, the Italian media has fanned the flames of controversy. Italy's largest newspaper, Corriere della Sera, quoted a parliamentarian as calling the programming choice "in very bad taste." Another called the choice "a new low" for Italian television. Several newspapers ran columns that discussed the screening.

The film screened as the rivalry between the two broadcasters heats up. Sky-Italia, a satellite broadcaster, boasted record subscription levels in the first quarter of the year as Mediaset -- Italy's most important broadcaster -- reported eroding ad revenue. Insiders say the rivalry between the two companies has supplanted the traditional TV rivalry between Mediaset and state broadcaster RAI.

Mediaset's press office declined to comment on the screening of "Shooting Silvio" when contacted. Sky's spokesman would only say that the film was broadcast for its entertainment value and not to make a political statement.