Political scandal in Italy: reported interference on major media

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Thursday, November 22, 2007

Silvio Berlusconi shaking the hand of US President George W. Bush.

Wiretaps disclosed by Italian daily La Repubblica have upset Italian politics. The conversations suggest that state-run RAI and private rival Mediaset, which is owned by Silvio Berlusconi, made arrangements to favour Berlusconi himself when he was Prime Minister of Italy.

In these conversations, RAI and Mediaset managers discussed how to present Berlusconi's defeat at the last elections in news programmes and talk shows and the decision to delay announcement of the bad results. This is not the first time Berlusconi has been accused of controlling the Italian media.

Berlusconi did not comment the allegations but one of his close associates, Renato Schifani, said that "This is a media operation [... with a] precise objective of destroying Mr Berlusconi's companies". Mediaset said it would sue La Repubblica for these allegations.

Walter Veltroni, the leader-elect of the opposition Democratic Party, said, "What has emerged is extremely serious" and requested an internal investigation within the RAI.