La7 sold to Cairo

Media and Torino FC boss said wouldn't change editorial line

La7 sold to Cairo

Rome, March 4 - Italy's fourth commercial TV channel La7, known for hard-hitting independent reporting, has been sold to media businessman and Torino FC boss Urbano Cairo, a former protege' of media magnate and ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi, La7 presenter and political analyst Gad Lerner tweeted Monday before confirmation of the sale came in. Amid fears from centre-left politicians, Cairo has pledged that La7's editorial line will not change after Telecom Italia sells Italy's seventh TV channel to his Cairo Communications. "I am not going to give away the best players, those that increase viewing numbers and give us visibility on the market," he said in the run-up to February 24-25 elections, when the sale became an issue. On Monday, after the takeover news, all he would say was "I've got hold of a real hot potato". Cairo has previously stated he has no intention of following in the footsteps of Berlusconi, who in the past has allegedly used his political and economic clout to purge his three private Mediaset channels and state broadcaster RAI of journalists critical of his government and policies. Several subsequently migrated to La7. During the election campaign Berlusconi said he "hoped" La 7's "leftist" line would change after Cairo took over. Cairo, 55, was given his start in business by Berlusconi and subsequently set up his own media and advertising group, before emulating his acknowledged model, the magnate-turned-politician who owns AC Milan, by buying Serie A outfit Torino. La7, which has been a drain on Telecom Italia, is 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, has generated fears - aired by narrow front-runner amid Italy's post-election stalemate, Pier Luigi Bersani of the Democratic Party - that it may become another Berlusconi mouthpiece. Berlusconi responded to Bersani's claims that plurality could be at risk by saying: ''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''. Telecom Italia said it intended to sell La7 as part of a debt-trimming operation last May.

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