Clash of the titans: Berlusconi vs. Murdoch

Going merely by survey numbers, prospects still look good at home for Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and his party. But the scandal surrounding his wife’s demands for a divorce, which now includes accusations of misusing public funds, has received critical coverage and editorials both domestically and internationally. Who’s to blame? According to Berlusconi, it’s ...

585265_090604_berlusconi5.jpg
585265_090604_berlusconi5.jpg

Going merely by survey numbers, prospects still look good at home for Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and his party. But the scandal surrounding his wife's demands for a divorce, which now includes accusations of misusing public funds, has received critical coverage and editorials both domestically and internationally. Who's to blame? According to Berlusconi, it's Rupert Murdoch:

The Italian prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, accused the Times [of London] today of writing critical editorials about him because his government is in dispute with its owner, Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation.

Going merely by survey numbers, prospects still look good at home for Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and his party. But the scandal surrounding his wife’s demands for a divorce, which now includes accusations of misusing public funds, has received critical coverage and editorials both domestically and internationally. Who’s to blame? According to Berlusconi, it’s Rupert Murdoch:

The Italian prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, accused the Times [of London] today of writing critical editorials about him because his government is in dispute with its owner, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation.

Berlusconi blamed a series of articles in the Times on his government’s introduction of a 20% tax rate on pay TV firms last autumn, which affected Murdoch’s Sky Italia business.

In an interview on the Canale 5 TV channel, which he owns, Berlusconi said: “I don’t mean to be nasty but unfortunately with the episode on VAT for Sky there was a breakdown in relations with the Sky group and with Murdoch’s group, which has published a series of very critical articles attacking me.”

One recent Times article, written by Mary Beard and headlined “If the emperor has no clothes, history will expose him” dwelt on Berlusconi’s friendship with an aspiring teenage model, which has prompted his wife to demand a divorce[…]

Berlusconi was also said to be furious at the broadcast on Murdoch’s Sky Italia in April of the film Killing Silvio, which depicted an attempt to kidnap him. It was claimed that the film was intended to “instigate hatred against the prime minister”.

If previous disputes between Berlusconi and the press are any guide, though, Murdoch has little to worry about: the Economist has been harshly critical of Berlusconi for years, and it won a libel suit brought by Berlusconi three years ago. 

TIZIANA FABI/AFP/Getty Images

James Downie is an editorial researcher at FP.

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