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The BBC's Brian Barron reports
"Never before in modern Europe has a Prime Minister prepared for office still owning vast chunks of the country's media"
 real 56k

Carlo Deblasio is a Rai news editor
"The relationship between the government and Rai is quite strong"
 real 28k

Giuliano Ferrara, friend of Silvio Berlusconi
"There is already a law in Parliament concerning conflicts of interests"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 15 May, 2001, 19:09 GMT 20:09 UK
Italy election victors seek TV purge
Gianfranco Fini
Mr Fini described Rai coverage as "scandalous"
One of the key figures in Italy's victorious centre-right alliance has demanded large-scale sackings at the state-owned television network, Rai.

Gianfranco Fini, who is being considered for the post of deputy prime minister in Silvio Berlusconi's government, said a new leadership could be in place at the network by mid-June.

Silvio Berlusconi
Mr Berlusconi's media interests alarm many

Mr Berlusconi, a controversial billionaire media tycoon, won a comfortable majority in Sunday's general election. He is now considering his new cabinet line-up.

Opponents say that as prime minister, Mr Berlusconi will effectively control Rai as well as its main competitor Mediaset - giving him influence over six of Italy's eight main channels.

Mr Berlusconi has said he wants to put together a new government quickly, and hopes to have his list of ministers ready before being officially asked to form an administration.

Transformation promised

Mr Berlusconi has promised a profound transformation of the Italian state, with the emphasis on tax cuts, education and public works.

Throughout the election campaign the right accused Rai TV of unfair bias. Mr Fini branded Rai's coverage of the campaign as "scandalous".

"If the new presidents of the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate are elected on May 30, there will be a new Rai management around mid-June," said Mr Fini.

Rai comprises three television stations and a number of radio stations.

At the centre of the bias debate was a programme which Rai broadcast called Satyricon. It featured an interview with a author who had written a book critical of the origin of Mr Berlusconi's fortune.

Satire debate

Mr Berlusconi's subsequent attack on the programme sparked a huge media debate over the nature of satire and what is acceptable.

But correspondents in Italy have said that the claims of bias are unfounded and that Rai TV is perceived to be balanced in its reporting.

They also say that whilst the heads of the TV network are political appointees they display no particular political leanings.

Mr Fini also pledged that the new government would resolve the conflict of interest between Mr Berlusconi's political responsibilities in the government and his personal fortune.

Media empire

Through his Fininvest holding, Mr Berlusconi or members of his family control three television networks, Italy's leading weekly Panorama and the newspaper Il Giornale, and own 48.3% of the Mediaset television group.

His centre-right alliance won an absolute majority in both houses of parliament.

A BBC correspondent in Rome says the poor showing by the anti-immigrant Northern League may even allow Mr Berlusconi to govern without its support.

It was the League which brought down the previous Berlusconi administration in 1994 after just seven months.

International response

US President George Bush has congratulated Mr Berlusconi and the State Department said Washington hoped to "enjoy co-operation and a fruitful relationship" with his government.

A US official noted that the United States had worked well Mr Berlusconi's first government in 1994.

But Italy's European, mostly socialist neighbours, remained nervous at the prospect of a Berlusconi administration.

French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine said his government would be "attentive and, if need be, vigilant", over the Italian regime.

There has also been criticism in Europe over the media mogul's vast business interests and numerous criminal charges brought against him, including tax fraud, bribery and illegal party funding, which he denies.

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See also:

15 May 01 | Europe
Berlusconi lays out big plans
14 May 01 | Europe
Temperatures rise in chaotic poll
11 May 01 | Media reports
'Life is not beautiful' if Berlusconi wins
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