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Rupe's Sky Italia neutral in coming elections

Rupert Murdoch has assured Italian prime minister and media mogul rival Silvio Berlusconi that his Sky Italia pay TV platform will remain impartial in the upcoming elections.

The two met in Rome on Tuesday, where the News Corp. chairman unveiled a new decoder for his Sky Italia.

“I believe that in TV one is using a public license to disseminate the news, and it is important that you should remain absolutely fair,” Murdoch told reporters. “If I were publishing a newspaper or a magazine here, I would consider that quite differently.”

The center-right coalition headed by Berlusconi — who controls top Italian commercial terrestrial broadcasting company Mediaset and government-funded pubcaster RAI — is trailing the center-left opposition in opinion surveys. The election must be held no later than the end of May.

A day earlier Murdoch lunched with leading center-left candidate Romano Prodi, who appears frequently on Sky Italia news programs, and met other Italo opposition pols.

While Murdoch and Berlusconi have long been considered cronies, relations have soured since the Berlusconi government started subsidizing digital terrestrial TV decoders this year, a boon for Mediaset, which has invested heavily in DTT.

Berlusconi’s recently began stepping up the competition with Sky by selling cut-price pay-per-view soccer matches to the 3 million DTT decoder owners.

“We believe all digital services should be treated equally. I’ll leave it at that,” Murdoch said, asked if Berlusconi had disappointed him.

“I respect the competition, but our offer has no equals,” the News Corp. boss boasted, introducing the MySky decoder that allows subscribers to record and store programming.

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