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Last Updated: Friday, 18 February, 2005, 15:19 GMT
Rome angered by Swedish TV spot
Silvio Berlusconi in Swedish tv ad
One of the trailers portrays an unflattering picture of Italian TV
Italy has reacted angrily to a Swedish TV advert which disparages Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's relationship with the media.

The Italian foreign ministry summoned Sweden's ambassador to complain about the spot for Sveriges Television (SVT).

In it, SVT describes itself as a "free" TV channel, in contrast to Italy where Mr Berlusconi "controls 90% of the national TV channels".

The state-funded station said the ad highlighted its own independence.

"Our ambassador, Steggan Wrigstad, was summoned and the Italian government complained about the ad," Swedish foreign ministry spokeswoman Asa Arvidson told the BBC's news website.

"He could only say that the media in Sweden are independent and free," she added. "It is nothing to do with the government. If they want to complain, they will have to do so to the station."

Mr Berlusconi has not commented on the advert.

The head of communications at SVT, Helga Baagoe, told the AFP news agency that the broadcaster had yet to receive any official complaint from Italy.

Ticker tape

The trailer shows Mr Berlusconi, who owns Italy's largest private TV network, blowing kisses from TV screens.

It also features snippets from Italian television with ticker tape running across.

"Silvio Berlusconi controls 90% of national TV channels in Italy," it reads. "He became prime minister in 1991 after a massive TV campaign."

We believe it is very important to have a television completely free from advertisers, owners and political influence
Helga Baagoe
SVT's head of communications

"Right after that, a tribunal ruled he should sell one of his channels. Then the law changed," the ticker says, rolling over footage from some of Italy's many entertainment shows featuring scantly clad women.

"We believe it is very important to have a television completely free from advertisers, owners and political influence," Ms Baagoe told the BBC News website.

"In a democracy, you do need a totally independent broadcaster."

A similar ad claims that Mr Putin is in control of all national TV channels in Russia - including NTV, the last independent channel, acquired by the state in 2003.

"In the run-up to the 2004 presidential election, only positive reports on Putin were aired," it alleges.

Swedish TV jibe targets leaders
17 Feb 05 |  Europe
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02 Jun 04 |  Europe

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