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Italy revises talkshow ban

Sky, La7 loosens political gag

MILAN — Judges have partially over-turned a ban on Italian talkshows that was designed to limit political debate in the run up to this month’s regional elections on March 28-29.

A court in Lazio upheld an appeal from Sky and Telecom Italia Media, the parent company of terrestrial broadcaster La7.

Opposition lawmakers, led by Democratic Party leader Pier Luigi Bersani, are now calling for a legal challenge that will allow pubcaster RAI to beat the ban.

Under the controversial rules, political content is this month only allowed if all 30 or so parties standing in the elections are represented on each show — which programmemakers said would make their formats unworkable.

The ruling, which Prime Minister Silivo Berlusconis center-right coalition rushed through Parliament last month, was seen by opposition MPs and journalists as a means of gagging talkshows, particularly those on RAI that had taken the mogul to task after a series of scandals.

Last November, Berlusconi described RAI’s flagship show “Annozero” as a “criminal use of public television” after it broadcast the first live interview with call-girl Patrizia D’Addario, in which she dismissed the Prime Minister’s claims he had been unaware she was a prostitute when they slept together.

Meanwhile, fresh conflict of interest fears were raised on Thursday when the left-wing Il Fatto Quotidiano paper claimed that wire-taps recorded by the police showed Berlusconi pressuring the head of Agcom, the broadcast watchdog, to close down “Annozero.”

The article also suggested there was further evidence of collusion between Berlusconi, who owns three of Italy’s six terrestrial channels, and Augusto Minzolini, the head of RAI Uno news, who has previously been accused of being too pro-government. This was denied by Minzolini.

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