Cairo says La7 will keep independence

'I share editorial line,' media boss says

Cairo says La7 will keep independence

(by Denis Greenan). Milan, March 8 - The new owner of Italy's seventh terrestrial channel La7 said Friday he would hold to its independent and left-leaning editorial line. Media and advertising entrepreneur and Torino soccer club boss Urbano Cairo, who bought La7 from Telecom Italia's media unit Ti Media Monday said the channel's "freedom of expression must be defended". "I see a clear editorial line at La7, the present one, which I share," said the head of Cairo Communications, which owns the Giorgio Mondadori publishing group as well as advertising rights for a slew of Italian magazines. But he indicated he might be a hands-on owner, ruling out bringing in new partners to help La7 emerge from a rising debt burden. "I don't see the need for any other consortium to be involved. When you have too many people, they all try to have a say," he said. Cairo is a former protege' of media magnate and ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi and his takeover of La7 had raised concerns over pluralism in TV, the medium where an estimated 90% of Italians get their news. After fears voiced by centre-left politicians in the run-up to the recent elections, Cairo pledged that La7's editorial line would not change. "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, he said: "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 Berlusconi, 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. Cairo, who shelled out one million euros for La7, said Friday he had not thought about how he would cut costs at La7, which lost one billion euros in the last 10 years but boosted its share in the last three years after attracting top journalists like former Berlusconi anchor man Enrico Mentana. Cairo, who said none of the channel's 470 jobs were currently at risk, added that he would have a new business plan ready "by June".

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