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The fear of being attacked by the Italian media godfather

Silvio Berlusconi is once again the bogeyman of the German media industry.

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The fear of being attacked by the Italian media godfather

Silvio Berlusconi is once again the bogeyman of the German media industry. The Holding Media for Europe (MFE), controlled by the Berlusconi family, has announced a planned increase in its stake in the Munich media group ProSiebenSat.1 (P7S1) to the Austrian competition authority and now also to the Bavarian State Center for New Media (BLM).

From the current 22.72 percent share in the share capital and thus also in the voting rights, it should now go to 29.9 percent. So just below the threshold of 30 percent - from which MFE would have to make a takeover bid to the other shareholders.

"Berlusconi reaches for ProSiebenSat.1," it is now said in numerous media, or: "Berlusconi wants sole power." Right down to the comment in the "Wirtschaftswoche" (not to be confused with the "taz") that Berlusconi's "grip for power" must be "prevented by all means".

Clearly - the Italian is still the head of the governing party Forza Italia and at the same time one of the most important media entrepreneurs in the country through his family. MFE Holding is managed by Berlusconi's son Pier Silvio. Bavaria's Prime Minister Markus Söder had already reflexively warned against taking over P7S1.

There are good reasons to be vigilant about Berlusconi. Nevertheless, it is also advisable to deal with the actual motives for the participation. The Italians, who are also active in Spain, are concerned with setting up a "pan-European" television company or at least a network or alliance of several broadcasting groups.

A complete takeover, they claim, is not the goal. The basis of the procedure is the prognosis that national media groups will not be able to compete against (mainly American) tech and streaming companies in the long term.

That doesn't mean that the group's stations have to become Italophilic - even if more co-productions are to be expected. The violent reactions are reminiscent of culturally pessimistic debates from the 1980s, when RTL showed "Tutti Frutti", expanded to include the fear of an Italian godfather spreading fake news.

On the other hand, it should be noted that German private broadcasters have recently invested significantly more in good-quality information broadcasts because they can't get anywhere with cheap off-the-shelf products. The assumption that propaganda television will soon be broadcast instead is not very realistic.

So why the increase in P7S1 when it is allegedly not about sole control? On the one hand, a takeover cannot be completely ruled out, this (very expensive) option is kept open.

Above all, however, the holding MFE, which is controlled from Amsterdam, is probably concerned with the fact that it can influence important strategic decisions better with a higher share of the vote on the supervisory board than with the previous 22.7 percent. Specifically, the Italians want P7S1 to give up its dinghies like the dating business (Parship) and e-commerce holdings - in order to be able to focus entirely on the advertising-financed television market.

The plan to set up a network of transmitters across Europe does not have to work, as similar failed projects show. A consolidation or networking is therefore not wrong - and Bertelsmann boss Thomas Rabe also planned a merger of the RTL channel M6 with the competitor TF1 in France - but failed due to competition law requirements. What shows - it is now about the future viability of the media industry.

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