Berlusconi empire may grow

Opponents fear law change will lead to media grab

MILAN — Italo TV broadcasters will be able to buy newspaper publishers from the April 1 under new proposals, re-igniting fears that mogul and Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi might try to extend his domination of the country’s media.

With the old competition law due to expire, the Milleproroghe decree, backed by Berlusconi’s supporters in parliament will relax limits on cross-media ownership designed to curb the mogul’s media power.

Berlusconi already controls the Mediaset group and its three national free-to-air channels, and, as prime minister, influences the management structure of pubcaster RAI’s three channels.

Opposition MPs, led by Democratic Party media spokesman Paolo Gentiloni, said the decree was designed to allow Mediaset to move into the print market, perhaps with the leading daily Corriere della Sera in its sights.

“We’re not interested,” Mediaset chairman Fedele Confalonieri told reporters at the weekend.

But Cesare Romiti, honorary prexy of RCS Media, which owns Corriere, was not convinced.

“I don’t believe it,” he said, “because when someone makes a declaration like this, who knows what they’re really thinking.”