Italian prime minister and media magnate Silvio Berlusconi recently entertained fellow mogul Rupert Murdoch to a cosy four-hour luncheon a deux at his villa in Sardinia.

Engorged between the soup and coffee, say insiders, were a pair of succulent delicacies - two of Italy’s three state owned RAI terrestrial television channels. This suspicion was heightened by an interview given by Berlusconi last week to French magazine Le Point.

He admitted to Le Point that he is fattening the two channels for market and would welcome foreign investors of the ilk of News Corporation. First, however, he would need to beef up their finances. “Right now, we couldn't put them on the market; it would be giving them away.”

Murdoch’s News Corporation, whose Italian portfolio includes 50% of red ink-stained satellite TV broadcaster Stream, has been eager to enter the Italian terrestrial TV market for some time, an ambition that fits neatly with premier Berlusconi’s stated intention to sell two of RAI’s three lossmaking channels.

But the Berlusconi/Murdoch stratagem could founder on the reef of intervention by the European Commission, which takes an inconvenient interest in the acquisition of EU television interests by foreign investors.

News source: BrandRepublic (UK)