Mediaset, the Italian media fiefdom of tycoon-turned-prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, has become the nation’s most popular TV group, after ratings for its three networks overtook those of their state-owned rivals.

New figures published by Corriere della Sera show that the three Mediaset stations took a 45.9% share of prime-time Italian viewers between January and May, compared with 44.7% for the three networks owned by state broadcaster RAI – the first time for several years Berlusconi’s broadcasters have come out top.

The figures fuelled fresh criticism of Berlusconi’s conflict of interests: not only is he the chief shareholder in Mediaset, but his position as prime minister also puts him in charge of RAI.

Despite attempts to separate the media mogul from daily operations at Mediaset, the new ratings prompted accusations from opposition groups that Berlusconi’s government is working to strengthen his commercial TV empire.

The most-watched channel remained Mediaset’s Canale 5, whose 24.9% audience share beat the 22.7% polled by top state network RAI-1. The handful of viewers not watching Berlusconi-led broadcasts tuned in either to local programming or to La 7, Italy’s smallest national network.

Data sourced from:; additional content by WARC staff