Measure restricts growth of Berlusconi empire

The Italian government, under pressure from communications watchdog Agcom, has renewed rules limiting ownership of media that were due to expire on Jan. 1.

The rules prevent Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi from adding to his already extensive range of media interests.

Berlusconi’s government extended the ban on new cross-holdings of TV and print media assets by just three months and not the year that many had expected. The official government gazette said, however, that the ban might be extended until the end of 2011.

Conflict of interest accusations have dogged Berlusconi since he entered politics.

He has a controlling stake in three of Italy’s six major TV stations, together with a family newspaper and a weekly newsmagazine. As head of government, he also has significant influence over pubcaster RAI.

Restrictions on media cross-holdings were laid down in the 2004 Gasparri Law regulating broadcast media.

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