Italy's looking good

Owen Byrne owen at
Tue Dec 2 23:14:49 PST 2003

as a (lesser) partner in fascism and all that kind of stuff. Hey - 
they've got a history. And hopefully they'll give a humorous 
counterbalance for the left - every French joke goes triple for the 
Ities if they ever fight a war - maybe we could rename spaghetti 
eventually, although freedom noodles just doesn't cut it. Hmmm something 
with the meatballs maybe, and an appropriate castration metaphor. 
Sometime in the future hopefully - I think - "Limp noodles spread over 
Bush's balls" might be a good moniker - Might not be the biggest seller 

 Lets not forget <nosarcasm>A first class partner in the Coalition of 
the Willing</nosarcasm>


  Berlusconi tightens media grip

*ROME, Italy (Reuters) --**The Italian parliament passed a controversial 
media bill on Tuesday which critics say favours Prime Minister Silvio 
Berlusconi's business empire.*

After a drawn-out battle, the law was approved by Berlusconi's 
centre-right allies with a 27-vote majority in the face of fierce 
opposition from centre-left politicians as well as some newspaper 
editors and state broadcaster RAI.

Government supporters say the law breathes fresh life into the rigid 
media market, allowing the largely protected Italian industry to deal 
with foreign competition and setting a time frame for the roll-out of 
digital television.

But opponents say it favours private broadcaster Mediaset, top publisher 
Mondadori and Italy's biggest advertising sales firm -- all controlled 
by the Berlusconi family holding company Fininvest.

"From today we are all a little less free... the law worsens all the 
ills of our television system: little competition, falling quality and 
progressive restriction of pluralism,'' said Paolo Gentiloni of the 
centre-left opposition Margherita party.

Berlusconi, through his political office and his business interests, has 
direct and indirect influence over an estimated 95 percent of Italian TV.

The new media law, named after Communications Minister Maurizio 
Gasparri, will allow the Berlusconi family holding company to buy into 
radio and newspapers from 2009.

"We are satisfied. But it's only a chapter in a never-ending story,'' 
Mediaset Chairman Fedele Confalonieri told reporters in Monte Carlo. 
"Even tomorrow, the protests to the Italian president will begin.''

Earlier, he said the law would give Mediaset and publisher Mondadori 
access to extra revenues of 750 million euros ($896 million).

      Same but different

Italy's move to loosen media ownership laws follows a trend seen in 
Britain and most recently the United States and Spain.

U.S. legislators gave in to White House pressure last week and agreed to 
allow increased control of the airwaves by television networks, while 
Spain is considering allowing one firm to hold stakes in more than one 
TV network.

But analysts say while Italy's laws are not in theory dissimilar to 
Western peers, because of the unique media makeup of the country they 
could not be more different.

"From a media ownership point of view, what Italy is trying to have is a 
system that is not greatly different from Britain's. But then there's 
the Berlusconi factor,'' said one London-based media analyst, who 
declined to be identified.

"Having a prime minister whose family has a chunk of a broadcaster that 
has 65 percent of the advertising market and 43 percent audience share 
makes the two systems incomparable,'' the analyst added.

The government vowed to change media laws when it took office in 2001, 
but only unveiled the package in September 2002 after lengthy consultations.

The Gasparri law expands the advertising market by allowing more space 
for product promotions within shows -- increasing commercial time beyond 
the current 20 minutes every hour.

The law also puts RAI through a privatisation that critics -- including 
its president Lucia Annunziata and other media executives -- have called 
"fake,'' because it allows shareholders to take just a one percent stake 
in the state broadcaster.

Annunziata, who only took over the RAI helm in March, has said she would 
resign if the bill was passed.

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