Laffer special riles companies over politcal comments

ROME — Mediaset has filed a E20 million ($23.5 million) lawsuit against pubcaster RAI claiming that a comedy show that took potshots at Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s dominance of Italy’s airwaves caused it “moral and material” damages.

The irony of the situation isn’t lost on industryites in a country where Berlusconi controls both Mediaset, through his personal holding company Fininvest, and the government-funded RAI.

The controversial latenight program “Raiot: Weapons of Mass Distraction,” was pulled last week after debuting Nov. 16 to stellar ratings on RAI-3.

It sparked a heated debate over whether TV comedians should be allowed to make political crusading part of their schtick.

Standup star Sabina Guzzanti, protesting against what she says is censorship, performed the show Sunday in front of thousands of people who packed Rome’s Auditorium, which was linked by satellite to bigscreens in 22 other theaters.

The “Raiot” segment that prompted Mediaset to take legal action included a skit in which an impersonator of Communications Minister Maurizio Gasparri admitted he didn’t draft the proposed new TV law — currently subject of heated debate in parliament — and had no idea what it says.

The skit implied Berlusconi had laid out the proposed new rules that, if passed, would allow the top commercial broadcaster to raise its advertising roof.

Meanwhile, RAI is considering a breach-of-contract suit against Guzzanti for her off-the-air “Raiot” performance and the center-left opposition filed a formal petition demanding the show be put back in its RAI-3 slot next Sunday.

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