Berlusconi gets breather for TV channel with decree

MUMBAI: Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has got a reprieve. Italy's government approved an emergency measure yesterday. This will save one of his TV channels from being forced off free TV and onto satellite. The move would have drastically cut earnings from advertising.

A BBC News report stated that the station, Rete 4, is one of three owned by Berlusconi's Mediaset group. It fell foul of a court ruling that is aimed at ensuring wide ownership of media services and preventing monopolies. Critics have said the proposed media law would have allowed Berlusconi to strengthen his grip on Italy's media.

If the Italian Parliament passes it unchanged for a second time, the President would be obliged to sign it into law. The country's President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi had ordered the media bill to be reconsidered by Parliament fearing concentration of media in the hands of one individual..

The media bill contains a number of different provisions, including the creation of multi-channel digital broadcasting. It also lifts the ban on cross-ownership of broadcast and print media in 2009 and increases the amount of advertising that one single company can have. Crucially for Berlusconi, the bill removes a previous restriction on one person owning more than two national broadcasting stations.

Berlusconi is Italy's richest man. His other two television channels are Italia 1 and Canale 5. An AP report adds that the decree also blocked the state-run RAI 3 channel from having to eliminate all advertising. A few days ago Berlusconi defended the proposed media bill saying that it was necessary to modernise the country's media.

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