Berlusconi’s son worries foes can hurt broadcasting empire

Milan, July 01: Billionaire Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s son is not especially worried about a political crisis in the government, but fears his father’s political adversaries can harm the family’s television empire.

‘I’m more worried that hostilities toward my father that have matured over the 17 years he’s been in politics can be used against Mediaset,’ Pier Silvio Berlusconi stated, referring to Italy’s biggest private broadcaster where he works as vice chairman. Mediaset owns three of Italy’s four major private television networks.

‘It makes me somewhat scared that the resentment against my father could turn against the company,’ he said on the sidelines of autumn programming schedule near Milan.

Some Berlusconi critics say the media mogul initially entered politics in 1994 to protect his business in the wake of a national political corruption scandal that resulted in the arrests of businessmen and politicians.

Berlusconi’s friend, and some say protector, then prime minister Benedetto Craxi fled to Tunisia where he died in self-imposed exile in 2000.

Many supporters agree with Berlusconi’s often-repeated stump speech that he has saved Italy from an anti-private sector left and adore him as a populist rather than a career politician.

Mediaset earlier this month had warned investors that a slump in advertising sales in Italy and Spain would cause net profit for 2011 to fall below last year unless sales picked up.

Berlusconi has seen his approval ratings drop as prime minister as he attempts to mend a stagnating economy and faces four trials – three linked to his media businesses and one tied to a sex scandal.

He says he’s innocent in all the cases, blaming political persecution by left-wing magistrates for his legal woes.

A survey earlier this month showed that 74-year-old Berlusconi’s popularity amongst voters has hit a record low.

The poll carried out by IPR marketing for the left-leaning daily La Repubblica put Berlusconi’s personal approval rating at 29 percent in June, down from 40 percent at the start of 2011.