Rome

Berlusconi's Mediaset pulls bid for La7 network

Broadcasting giants not given 'sufficient details' to proceed

Berlusconi's Mediaset pulls bid for La7 network

(see previous) (ANSA) - Rome, September 18 - Ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi's Mediaset media group has pulled out of the running for the bid to purchase La7, Italy's fourth and smallest commercial TV channel, company directors said on Tuesday. "To avoid any further twisting of the situation, we formally and publicly remove ourselves. We hope that the sale continues successfully - and with brilliant new stock market performance - but that the name of our company is no longer used to create visibility and interest in search of buyers," said the memorandum. Mediaset dropped out after not receiving the necessary tender details "needed to proceed," said the release. The possibility of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp as a new bidder in the running for the purchase of La7 was announced on Tuesday and called a "good match" by popular news presenter Enrico Mentana. "They are a serious group with an impressive dossier that knows about television," Mentana said. La7 network is up for sale because of debt-trimming by parent Telecom Italia, the largest telecommunications company in Italy. Telecom Italia CEO Franco Bernabe' said on Tuesday that his company would not sell for "just any amount", nor would they consider projects that would drastically alter La7's current format. "The selling price has an important role, but there is also the project proposal to consider," Bernabe' said. Prime-time news host Mentana boosted the channel's ratings when he joined La7 after being sacked as news chief of ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi's Canale 5 (owned by Mediaset) in 2004 and expressed doubts that he would remain with La7 if Mediaset purchased the channel. "Mediaset is a market player, not Hitler. But I would leave for problems I personally have had in the past with Mediaset management," Mentana said. Al Jazeera, Sky Italia, Discovery Channel and Espresso publishing group, which owns liberal Italian daily La Repubblica, have also expressed interest in the purchase. "I am not doing DNA exams on possible buyers, but I don't see conflicts of interest with Espresso, whose owner does not have political aspirations or show signs of interfering with the tone of the news (by injecting bias)...unlike Berlusconi," Mentana said referring to Carlo De Benedetti, Espresso group's owner and Silvio Berlusconi's traditional rival. Analysts say that La7′s market value increased because of its moderate, balanced approach to news reporting specialized in accurate, wider-ranging information programs.

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