Pro-democracy group appeals to European Court over Berlusconi grip on media

A pro-democracy group has filed a brief to the European Court of Human Rights claiming Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s hold on the country’s TV market is undemocratic.

The Open Society Justice Initiative, which was founded by billionaire George Soros to promote democratic values, said it was stepping into a legal battle started by broadcaster Centro Europa 7, which claims that its operating frequency was withheld for a decade by successive governments despite it winning a TV licence in 1999. Europa 7 said that its frequencies were unlawfully given to Rete 4, part of Berlusconi’s Mediaset group.

“This case highlights the failure of successive Italian governments to deal with the twin problems of concentrated control and conflict of interest in broadcasting,” James Goldston, executive director of the Open Society Justice Initiative said in a statement. “The Italian situation is unacceptable for a democracy and we are calling on the European Court to uphold the principles of media pluralism.”