Silvio Berlusconi Leaves a Logan Roy-Esque Legacy as Powerbroker in Italian Media and Politics

There are many reasons why Silvio Berlusconi’s death, at 86 due to complications from chronic leukemia, represents the end of an era.

Berlusconi single-handedly created the concept of private national network television in Italy. He was part of that rare breed of Logan Roy-esque media moguls to emerge in Europe in the late 1970s and early 1980s, including Rupert Murdoch and Germany’s Leo Kirch. At a time when Italy’s airwaves were monopolized by state broadcaster RAI’s stodgy channels, his Mediaset TV platform imported Hollywood series such as “Dallas” and “Baywatch” and movies like “Rambo” and “Conan the Barbarian.” The locally produced topless quiz show “Colpo Grosso” also defined Berlusconi’s TV pioneer days. There was no turning back.

After his Mediaset TV venture boomed and the self-made mogul snapped up daily newspaper Il Giornale, the A.C. Milan soccer team, film company Medusa, and top Italian publisher Mondadori, Berlusconi went into politics in the early 1990s. He did this blatantly to defend his media interests and ensure Mediaset remained Italy’s dominant commercial TV player.

In doing so, Berlusconi managed the feat of serving as the country’s premier three times, though not consecutively, becoming Italy’s longest-serving more-or-less democratically elected leader, undeniably thanks to his sparkling personality, boundless energy and the empathic connection he established with voters of different social classes. Being able to carpet-bomb the electorate with political ads on Mediaset, while also wielding influence on RAI’s news channels, also helped. Italian politics, for better or worse, will never be the same.

RELATED: Berlusconi Ousted From Italy’s Parliament After Tax Fraud Conviction

However, what’s most significant about Silvio Berlusconi’s passing, especially outside Italy, is that the TV titan-turned-politician was one of the last surviving true media tycoons, along with Murdoch and Vincent Bolloré, founder of France’s Vivendi.

Once Berlusconi is buried in the monumental pink-marble-and-granite tomb he built, it will be interesting to see what happens to his outdated TV empire and how his five children from two marriages carve up that empire. But two things are clear: Mediaset, now rebranded MediaForEurope, won’t benefit from political protection in Italy’s Parliament anymore. And in both the media and the political spheres nobody has been designated to pick up Berlusconi’s baton.

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