Telecom Italia Media signs deal to cede La7 to Cairo

Majority MTV Italia stake not included in deal

Telecom Italia Media signs deal to cede La7 to Cairo

Milan, March 6 - Telecom Italia Media (TI Media) has signed a deal to cede 100% of its La7 television station to Cairo Communication, TI Media and Cairo announced in a joint statement on Wednesday, raising concerns over media pluralism in Italy. The two companies specified that TI Media's 51% stake in MTV Italia was not included in the deal. The new owner of La7, Italy's fourth commercial TV channel known for hard-hitting independent reporting, is media businessman and Torino FC boss Urbano Cairo, a former protege' of media magnate and ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi. The sale, announced Monday, has raised concerns over competition in TV, the medium where an estimated 90% of Italians get their news, amid a post-election stalemate in national politics. After fears voiced by centre-left politicians in the run-up to the recent elections, Cairo has pledged that La7's editorial line would not change after his Cairo Communications took over Italy's seventh TV channel. "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 a talking point. 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. 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. Telecom Italia said it intended to sell La7 as part of a debt-trimming operation last May. Cairo shelled out one million euros for La7, Ti Media said. (photo: Urbano Cairo)

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