Mediaset fined for biased election coverage


ROME -- Italy's Communications Authority on Thursday fined broadcaster Mediaset 100,000 euros ($155,000) for providing unfair coverage of Italy's upcoming elections, and two other broadcasters were warned to adjust their coverage or face sanctions.

The fine and warnings were an unusual move for a regulator that rarely gets involved in political issues.

The elections in Italy, which are scheduled for April 13-14, feature Mediaset's leading shareholder and three-time prime minister Silvio Berlusconi facing former Rome mayor Walter Veltroni.

A Rome court ordered the regulator to study election coverage after a complaint was filed by a Veltroni ally in late February. The findings were presented Monday, and on Thursday the decisions were announced.

In addition to levying a fine against Mediaset for it's general coverage of the election so far, the regulator required all three Mediaset networks, state-controlled RAI Uno, and Telecom Italia Media's La 7 to all adjust coverage to cover the major candidates more even-handedly or face fines themselves.

A spokesman for Mediaset declined comment on the fine, which can be appealed. RAI said it would review its election coverage, while a spokesman for La 7 did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment.

The regulator did not say which candidate each broadcaster appeared to favor, but the local media has reported that Mediaset coverage has strongly tilted toward Berlusconi, while RAI appears to slightly favor Veltroni. It is not clear which candidate La 7's coverage appears to have favored.

The regulator said it would continue to monitor coverage and would make another ruling within 15 days if it appears that potentially slanted coverage has not been remedied.