BRUSSELS (AFP) — French media conglomerate Vivendi won a legal victory in the EU’s top court Thursday in its long-running battle to acquire a near 30% stake in Italy’s Mediaset.
The case pits Italy’s flamboyant former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, whose family control Mediaset, against France’s top corporate raider Vincent Bollore, the billionaire head of Vivendi.
The European Court of Justice said the Italian telecoms regulator was wrong to rule against Vivendi in 2017 and order it to reduce its holdings in Mediaset for breaching media ownership rules.
The regulator’s ruling came after Vivendi scooped up a stake 28.8% in Mediaset, an acquisition bitterly resisted by the Italian conglomerate.
“The provision of Italian law preventing Vivendi from acquiring 28% of the capital in Mediaset is contrary to EU law,” the court said in a statement.
The Italian rules lay out complex limits to the market share any company can control, with the aim of ensuring plurality in the media.
But the Luxembourg-based court said the limits do not achieve this aim, and so they amount to a breach of EU law guaranteeing companies’ freedoms to operate across member states.
“The court concludes that the Italian provision sets thresholds which bear no relation to the risk to media pluralism,” the court statement said.
“Those thresholds do not make it possible to determine whether and to what extent an undertaking is actually in a position to influence the content of the media.”
The Berlusconi family accused Vivendi of snapping up the shares after intentionally making the price fall by ripping up a new strategic partnership with Mediaset to create a new player on the European TV market meant to rival streaming giant Netflix.
Mediaset declined to comment when contacted by AFP.
© Agence France-Presse