Berlusconi accuses Murdoch of ordering negative stories about him

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London, June 5 (ANI): Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's long and profitable friendship with medial mogul Rupert Murdoch is apparently over, as he has accused the latter of ordering negative stories about him.

"I don't want to be nasty, but the episode of VAT on Sky created a rift with Sky and Murdoch which has been followed by a series of highly critical articles about me," the Independent quoted Berlusconi as saying on one of the three private television channels he owns through his company Mediaset.

The "episode" was the decision by Berlusconi's government in December 2008 to double the rate of VAT on satellite television to 20 per cent.ven though Murdoch's Sky Italia achieved an effective satellite monopoly in Italy with help from Berlusconi, the channel saw the jump in the tax rate as a calculated attack.

According to reports, a furious Murdoch unusually appeared in person at the Sky Italia headquarters to denounce the tax increase during a recession because he saw it as a direct assault on his business. He even ordered advertising spots lambasting the Berlusconi Government.

During the Easter break, Sky Italia broadcast the film 'Shooting Silvio', which revolved around a man's plan to rid Italy of Berlusconi with a bullet. Angry, aides of the Prime Minister said that the film was "an incitement to violence" against him.

People close to Berlusconi and Murdoch also agree that they are virtually at war.

"It's no secret that the relationship between the pair has got very nasty indeed in the last 12 months," a source at Sky Italia said.

Berlusconin has been in the news owing to his wife Veronica Lario's decision to sue for divorce over Noemi Letizia, the 18-year-old lingerie model who calls the Prime Minister daddy, and his decision to run a raft of starlets as candidates in the European election.

"When The Times starts repeating this stuff, it looks like another round between Berlusconi and Murdoch," one Italian media analyst said.

It is said that the contest between Berlusconi and Murdoch is entering a new phase, with Mediaset to introduce this summer its own satellite TV service, TivuSat, in conjunction with the public broadcaster Rai.

Augusto Preta, the director of Rome-based ITMedia Consulting, said that the competition between Mr Berlusconi's Mediaset and Mr Murdoch's Sky was set to intensify, "because it has never been demonstrated, in any European country, that there is space for two pay-TV operators". (ANI)

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