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RAI denied soccer rights

League rejects $45 million bid

Hopes that RAI will broadcast action from the Italo soccer league this season faded Wednesday when the pubcaster announced that the Lega Calcio (Football League) had turned down its final offer of e30.6 million ($45 million).

In a statement, RAI said it had “done everything possible” to get the soccer highlights for its TV and radio channels during the kickoff of the 2008-09 season next weekend.

The news marks the end of talks that followed RAI’s refusal earlier this month to stump up the league’s $103 million asking price for the right to broadcast weekend highlights for two seasons.

RAI said that unless the league was willing to reopen talks in the next few days to bring about a last-minute deal, Italians would only be able to see domestic soccer on TV if they pay for it.

News Corp.’s Sky Italia satellite platform offers soccer, as does a digital terrestrial TV channel operated by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s Mediaset broadcast group.

The decision is akin to a minor earthquake on Italo terrestrial TV.

Next season will be the first in which the pubcaster is unable to bring soccer-mad Italians their weekend fix of soccer highlights on TV institutions such as “La domenica sportiva” (Sporting Sunday) and “Novantesimo minuto” (Ninetieth Minute).

Luca Borgomeo, president of the National Viewers Council, told Corriere Della Sera newspaper that the development was “the latest defeat for public services and a blow to millions of Italians.”

The fact that RAI has won the right to broadcast soccer from Italy’s Supercoppa (Super Cup) in an $880,000 deal will be scant consolation.

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