Rome

Bersani, Berlusconi cross swords over La7 sale

PD chief sees risk of lack of pluralism

Bersani, Berlusconi cross swords over La7 sale

(see related story) Rome, February 19 - Centre-left leader Pier Luigi Bersani on Tuesday warned of the risk of a lack of pluralism in the Italian media after a man linked to Silvio Berlusconi sealed a deal to buy independent TV network La7. Referring to the deal by Urbano Cairo - owner of publishing and media company Cairo Communication and a former business associate of ex-premier Berlusconi's - to buy La7 from Telecom Italia, Bersani said that if he were premier, he would examine the deal's ramifications thoroughly. Bersani said if he were at the helm of government he would make sure the deal would not create any ''conflicts of interest'' or ''dominating positions''. Berlusconi, who is leading the centre right ahead of Sunday and Monday's vote, replied that Bersani's words were like a ''mafia warning''. ''He (Bersani) said wait to sell because if we are the government we will intervene to do I don't know what to Mediaset, so that La7 will be worth more,'' Berlusconi added. Bersani countered that in his remarks he did not mentioned Berlusconi. ''It's curious because every time someone talks about rules Berlusconi gets offended,'' Bersani said. Ever since entering politics, Berlusconi, who controls the Mediaset media empire, has been accused of abusing his control of television channels to promote his own goals. The accusations have been particularly strong in the instances when Berlusconi was the head of government, which critics claimed gave him control over Italy's state-owned RAI networks, the main nationally-broadcast alternatives to Berlusconi's own channels. La7, which has been a drain on Telecom Italia, was considered one of the last independent broadcasters with a national reach. Its acquisition by Cairo, who began his career working at Berlusconi's advertising group Publitalia, is generating accusations that it will essentially become another Berlusconi mouthpiece. Berlusconi tried to quell the critiques Tuesday. ''I have not had a relationship with Urbano Cairo for several years. He was my assistant and then he became an entrepreneur and it's been a while since I last heard him,'' Berlusconi commented. photo: Urbano Cairo

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