VOTE BOOSTS BERLUSCONI;ITALIANS REJECT TV OWNERSHIP, AD RESTRICTIONS

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ROME-Silvio Berlusconi's two-way victory in the June 11 popular referenda is seen as a boost to both the future of Mr. Berlusconi's Fininvest media group as well as his political ambitions to return to power as prime minister.

All three referenda-to limit TV ownership to one network, to ban spots during movies shown on TV, and to limit any one company from selling airtime for more than two TV networks-were defeated by ten percentage points or more on a voter turnout of 57%.

Financial sources said the referenda results made Fininvest more attractive to eventual buyers and, at the same time, made a sale less likely. Mr. Berlusconi and Fininvest President Fedele Confalonieri say they prefer the so-called "Project Wave"-a plan to partially sell Fininvest's TV and advertising subholding Mediaset to foreign media groups and place another substantial stake on the stock market.

However, more legal troubles later in the week began clouding Mr. Berlusconi's victory.

Last Tuesday, Mr. Berlusconi received another notice that he is under investigation-this time for alleged tax fraud during the acquisition of his palatial villa outside Milan. On Wednesday, Marcello Dell'Utri, Fininvest's number three executive and managing director of its advertising company Publitalia, offered to resign but Fininvest wouldn't accept it.

Milan magistrates, investigating Publitalia management for alleged tax fraud and false invoicing, including the creation of slush funds through inflated sports sponsorship deals, asked that the firm be placed under court-appointed management. A decision is expected by mid-July.

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