The Italian papers Thursday reported an early setback to Rupert Murdoch's new efforts to establish a European media empire based in Milan, Italy. In an interview that appeared last week in one of his British papers, the Times, Murdoch described his ambition to get a big stake in the European media market. He has established a European company, News Corp Europe, through which he hopes to set up partnerships with media companies across the continent. But what his interviewer described as "the first and most significant part of a new attack on the continental European market"--a joint venture with Telecom Italia, the Italian national telecommunications company, in digital satellite TV in Italy--was reported to have run into difficulties.
n another interview with the conservative Milan newspaper Il Giornale, the Italian communications minister said he feared that Murdoch's "firepower" meant there was a risk that his new Italy-based company might get into a monopolistic position. Illustrating the difficulties and sensitivity surrounding broadcasting regulation in Europe, Le Monde of Paris led Thursday on the controversy and delays over a proposed new law for reorganizing public service broadcasting in France. In an editorial, it blamed Prime Minister Lionel Jospin for "the general confusion."
l Mundo of Madrid led Thursday with a story saying that conservative Prime Minister José Maria Aznar has declared "war on the new Franco-German socialist axis," which is pushing for tax harmonization throughout the European Union, against the opposition of both Britain and Spain. This proposal, which has caused a great outcry in the largely Euroskeptic British press, has brought the left-leaning British government and the conservative Spanish one together in an alliance against the countries with whom Blair is supposed to be pursuing, together with President Clinton, the ill-defined political "Third Way." A summit meeting in France Thursday between Blair and French President Jacques Chirac was reported on the front page of the conservative Le Figaro of Paris to be focusing on closer defense cooperation between the two countries, a matter on which both countries could agree.