Italy to spin off state-run broadcaster

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RAI, the state-run broadcaster that owns three of Italy's seven national TV networks, will be spun off as its own company in a move expected to help RAI become more competitive. Eventually, the company will be privatized. RAI has been part of IRI, the state holding company that's gradually being dismantled. Until the mid-1990s, IRI was one of the largest companies in Europe, operating a wide range of companies producing products ranging from warships to banking services and from taxi fleets to Christmas pastries. The government eventually decided the companies would be run more efficiently if given more autonomy. In the broadcasting industry, experts say the change will most directly affect Mediaset, the broadcaster owned by billionaire media mogul Silvio Berlusconi. Like RAI, Mediaset owns three national networks and has enjoyed fast growth while competing against slow-responding RAI.

Copyright November 2000, Crain Communications Inc.

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