Media freedom in Italy, sort of...
The Corriere della Sera is trying to be sort of independent from Italian political parties since 15 years. And it has (sort of) succeeded until now. Which is why so many on the Italian Left are waiting for Silvio Berlusconi to react by doing something about this "anomaly" of an important piece of the media that is not yet owned by him.
The opportunity for a change in ownership at the Corriere is now. Some real estate entrepreneurs are buying shares of Rcs which controls the Corriere. Many shares. But not enough. Nobody understood the move: everybody was waiting for a mystery to emerge. And after long searching, Dario Di Vico, deputy editor at the Corriere has found that Ubaldo Livolsi, a financial guru in Milan and a very close friend of Berlusconi's (by the way he sits in Fininvest's board and Fininvest is the holding company of Berlusconi's empire) is behind the take over effort against Rcs-Corriere. The news made everybody think that reality seemed easy to read after all. But Berlusconi denied:
AUG. 9 10:41 A.M. ET Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian premier and billionaire media magnate, denied on Tuesday that he is involved in any takeover attempt for RCS MediaGroup SpA, which publishes the nation's largest daily, Corriere della Sera.
A Rome-based real estate developer Stefano Ricucci has been building a stake in RCS, leading to speculation on who might be involved in the operation.
"It seems impossible to me that someone would try to build out of nothing a castle of fantasy and lies like what you're seeing these days in the newspapers about a presumed, completely inexistent involvement by me in a RCS takeover attempt," Berlusconi said in a statement issued by the premier's office. (Ap - BusinessWeek's site).
Credibility is never the objective of Berlusconi's declarations.
Very good reporting about the story in published by the Independent.
A minister of Berlusconi's government has come to help his boss by saying that he cannot buy the Corriere because it is against the new law regulating the media, which states that a company like Berlusconi's should not buy another newspaper until 2010.
This defense is not strong. It only means that if the premier wanted to buy the Corriere he should do it with a covered operation, such as the one that is going on.
But the truth is simpler: we don't know, of course, if Livolsi is directly working for Berlusconi on this business or if he is working by himself. But we know that Livolsi and his partners would be much less independent in thinking at Berlusconi's interests than the present ownership of the Corriere.