Prime Minister of Italy Silvio Berlusconi launched a withering attack on the British Broadcasting Corporation last night, calling the corporation's size and ambitions 'chilling' and claiming that they were effectively a 'land grab' on a beleaguered media market.
Companies controlled by the family of the Italian Prime Minister dominate Italian commercial television - with a 45% audience share and over 60% of total advertising sales. This is particularly significant in a country where Newspaper readership is relatively low. However Signor Berlusconi's main concern is that state sponsored broadcasting stands in the way of any benign and well-intentioned mogul's ambition to increase his monopoly and "give people what they want."
"People do not want to listen to state sponsored propaganda," said Mr Berlusconi, speaking at a Guardian lecture last night. "Trust the people. They want a diet of gossip and pornography, except of course when that gossip and pornography involves their beloved Prime Minister Silvio, who is a stranger to this kind of thing anyway. Similarly they want to pay for good quality television on demand; they are happy to increase the profits of my media empire... except of course those cowboys of the internet 'Wild West Country' who insist on downloading pirated content and denying me those profits."
"Isn't it time that we left the 'Wild West," he concluded "to those who know how to make it bear fruit? This is not the time nor place for 'happy homesteaders' staking their claim, nor power hungry politicians and state sponsored journalists engaged in an information 'land grab'. This is territory for pioneers, entrepreneurs such as myself who believe that 'pornography of the people, by the people for the people shall not perish from the earth."
Wrapping up the Guardian lecture Mr Berlusconi denied that this current attack on free, state sponsored news had anything to do with the fact that his corporation is about to move to paid-for news content across his empire.