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Sky Italia attacks Berlusconi bill

Rupert Murdoch’s Sky Italia has hit out over a draft law on wiretapping rules, in the latest round of its battle with Italian premier and rival Mediaset owner Silvio Berlusconi.

The proposed law, which goes before the country’s senate next week, has caused a furore in Italy. Prosecutors are angry because it would limit their rights to request wiretapping of suspects, while editors and journalists would face prosecution for reporting on such investigations, according to the UK’s Financial Times.

Sky Italia said the bill “represents a serious attack on freedom of the media and expression.” It said it would challenge the law, if passed, in the European Court of Human Rights.

The company also said its TV news channel had a “fundamental duty” to provide complete and objective information to Italian viewers.

Berlusconi claimed his government is trying to protect citizens’ privacy. However, the bill’s passage through parliament has been stalled and it only re-emerged after the media published leaked wiretap transcripts involving an investigation into senior officials close to Berlusconi. The officials were suspected of corruption in the awarding of public works contracts.

Berlusconi’s own telephone conversations have been broadcast, including a recent case in which he tried to prevent public broadcaster Rai from airing programmes critical of him.

The spat is just the latest between the two media empires, following a recent row over the sale of TV football rights. In addition, Sky has called on the European Commission to relax restrictions on entry to the Italian satellite market, so that it would be able to take part in the 2011 auction of free-to-air digital spectrum.

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