Silvio wins, Vittorio out

Journalists group concerned about election

MILAN — While media baron Silvio Berlusconi was sweeping back to power at the head of a center-right coalition Sunday, archrival film producer and distributor Vittorio Cecchi Gori failed to be re-elected.

Cecchi Gori, a senator with the centrist Popular Party for five years, ran in the small Sicilian town of Acireale after his party refused to let him stand in his hometown of Florence.

Despite his promises to buy the local soccer team and open a multiplex theater, Cecchi Gori gained only 20,000 votes. After the defeat, the producer left Sicily without comment and was expected to travel to France for the Cannes Intl. Film Festival.

Once Italy’s leading film distributor and producer, Cecchi Gori has lost ground, while financial problems forced him to sell his TV station TeleMontecarlo to Telecom Italia.

Meanwhile, the Intl. Federation of Journalists said Monday that Berlusconi’s election showed the need for controls to “limit the concentration of media power in the hands of politicians.”

The Brussels-based IFJ, the world’s largest journalist organization representing 450,000 media professionals in 100 nations, appealed to the European Union to impose limits to ensure politicians can’t control too much of any nation’s media.

Berlusconi now oversees all mainstream Italian television — his own three Mediaset channels and pubcaster RAI’s three rival channels.

“Whenever media concentration takes place, it is inevitable that media will become vehicles for defense of narrow political or commercial interest,” said Aiden White, IFJ general-secretary. “The election of Silvio Berlusconi provides compelling evidence.”

In a statement, the IFJ cited a survey it said showed Berlusconi’s television channels gave him four times more exposure than his main rival.

“This bias was inevitable,” White said. “It is shocking that, in one of the world’s leading democracies, such a conflict of interest can be permitted.”

Berlusconi has promised to resolve his conflict of interest in the first 100 days after his victory. However, most observers expect him to announce the sale of a minority stake in his TV empire Mediaset or to set up a blind trust to manage his group while in power.

Berlusconi, who was premier for seven months in 1994, swept back into power after 10 million Italians, more than 20% of voters, voted for his party.

(The Associated Press contributed to this story.)

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