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Italy’s top film producer and distributor, Vittorio Cecchi Gori, will buy debt-ridden national TV channel TeleMontecarlo from industrial conglom Ferruzzi for 70 billion-100 billion lire ($4.3 million$16.2 million), according to a report in the financial daily II Sole 24 Ore.

According to the report, which was confirmed for Daily Variety by sources close to the talks, the two parties have signed a letter of intent and the final agreement should be reached in “one to two weeks.”

Not so fast

Ferruzzi said, however, it has not concluded any deal for the sale of TeleMontecarlo.

According to the sources, there are in fact still some minor legal and financial aspects to work out before the deal is finalized.

Italy’s TV regs call for all changes in ownership of national TV channels to be made before Aug. 13.

After that date, current ownership will be frozen for one year, so the government can review ownership rules.

Troubled broadcaster

TeleMontecarlo is a small, prestigious but financially troubled web.

It’s in the hands of creditor banks after its last owner, the Ferruzzi group, went bankrupt.

The banks wish to sell the channel as soon as possible, rather than waiting one year for higher bids, the sources said.

Challenge to Silvio

For his part, Cecchi Gori is eager to get into national broadcasting and loosen the grip that pubcaster RAI and Silvio Berlusconi’s Fininvest channels have on Italian viewers.

Making music

Cecchi Gori recently bought VideoMusic, a music channel founded by the Marcucci family, which he hopes to transform into a general entertainment web.

However, VideoMusic is too small to challenge Fininvest and RAI; the acquisition of a second national channel would make Cecchi Gori a stronger competitor, sources contend.

Were VideoMusic and TeleMontecarlo to be merged into a single network, sources say Cecchi Gori could be a broadcaster to be reckoned with.

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