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Berlusconi in N.Y.C. to accept an award and to give ... heartburn.

He will go. No, he will not go. He will... Like groupies tearing daisy petals to learn whether or not the admired one will show up, the international TV community is anxiously awaiting the arrival of Silvio Berlusconi to New York.

Berlusconi is to receive the International Council's 1992 Directorate Award. In the past, the Directorate Award has been bestowed to such industry leaders as CNN's Ted Turner and Sony's Akio Morita. Unfortunately, at press time, Berlusconi has yet to confirm whether or not he will personally accept the award. Even though all preparations are being made as though he is attending, there are people in his camp who believe otherwise.

Meanwhile, pressure is mounting as key United States TV executives are vying for table positions in the dining room. Berlusconi's honor is to be bestowed upon him at the 20th Annual International Emmy Awards ceremony, which includes a cocktail hour followed by a sit-down, black-tie dinner at the Sheraton Hotel.

The well-liked and much awaited-for cocktail hour is used to mingle and exchange greetings with the many top-level international film and television executives who flock to New York just for the occasion. The dinner, however, is somewhat restrictive and limited to exchanges among the 10 people who comprise each table. For this reason, many executives are more than hoping to be positioned next to Berlusconi's table, which, undoubtedly, will be this year's main attraction.

This year, the International Emmy Awards ceremony is unusual for the large number of top-level executives expected to attend: From Venevision's Gustavo Cisneros to Televisa's Milmo Azcarraga. Among the personalities attending is Bill Cosby, who has recently made public his plans to buy the NBCTV Network. Cosby is to receive the Founders Award.

This year, Venevision is the official sponsor of The International Emmy Awards. In the past, the United States TV Networks were honored to perform such a leadership function. However, now such a role is shouldered by international broadcasters in a sort of rescue mission.

Last year, the ceremony was paid for by RAI of Italy. Sadly, RAI lost some of the Awards' main attraction when it decided to have its own cocktail hour on another hotel floor in conflict with the official one. Nothing similar seems to be planned by the Berlusconi or Venevision people this year.

Fortunately for the International Council staff, Berlusconi's own table will seat his personal entourage, which is expected to follow him from Italy. Some of his other executives will be manning other tables with their own guests.

Years ago, Berlusconi told M/Video Age that "Americans should erect a monument" in his honor for the money he has spent to buy U.S. TV programs. Even though the Directorate Award is not a"monument," some observers point, symbollically, to the initial first step.

This, of course, is not Berlusconi's first visit to New York or the United States for that matter. In the past, he has attended the Los Angeles Screenings in May/June, but he has always resisted other people's urging to buy into an American media operation. Often, he has said that in America he feels like a small fish in a large pond, which is definitely not to his liking.

Reportedly, Berlusconi does not feel confident in America because of his poor English. However, it is not that he is shy. Rather, he is a media man and he likes to communicate on his own terms.

Many may recall when, as a young man, Berlusconi used to play in a band. At age 55, Berlusconi still does not miss an opportunity to sing or play his favorite songs. Such a free spirited attitude contrasts with his penchant to always wear a business suit and tie and demand the same of all his executives. Many may also cringe at Berlusconi's habit of telephoning his managers in the middle of the night to discuss an idea or concern of his.

Apparently, Berlusconi loves all the attention, accolades and reverence he is receiving worldwide. Rarely a day passes that he does not steal the headlines in his native Italy. Journalists there like to refer to him as "his emittenza," a combination of a play on words between "his eminency" and "transmitting." He is alternately called "Berlusca." M/Video Age created the word "Berlusconians" for his executives. Berlusconi is also showered with other titles such as "Dottore" or "Cavaliere."

After 12 years as a European leading figure in the television industry, Silvio Berlusconi is still very much the builder he started out to be. He has disproven the cynics who once doubted that his expertise in the construction industry qualified him as a pioneer in private television.

Indicating his penchant to continually build something new, he once said that he would rather"develop a new company a year" than take a vacation.

Berlusconi, born in Milan, is the son of a former bank executive. He began work in a trading company after high school graduation, subsequently moving to a construction firm where he worked his way up to general manager. He managed to support himself through law school, graduating in 1961. Immediately thereafter, he rounded his first company, Cantieri Riuniti Milanesi Spa, a firm that built apartments in Milan.

In 1963, he rounded Edilnord of Silvio Berlusconi and Company and built the first residential center in Lombardy, housing 4,000 people and providing a wide range of facilities, such as a commercial center, recreational areas and nurseries.

His architectural innovations have included "towns without automobiles" for as many as 28,000 people, industrial centers and tourist centers. In 1969, he began construction of Milano 2, a town near Milan for 10,000 people with a wide range of public facilities. Milano 3 was initiated in 1976, providing housing for 15,000 people. In 1979, work began on II Girasole, a mall near Milan and reportedly the largest of its type in Europe.

Berlusconi's first venture into print media came with the acquisition of II Giornale, a daily newspaper, followed by the acquisition of TV Sorrisie Canzoni, the largest Italian weekly. His entry into television came first with closed circuit television in one of his developments and then with operation of TeleMilano, a regional TV station in Milan, in 1978. He quickly appraised the possibilities of extending television activities throughout Italy, and in the fall of 1980 Canale 5 was born. After three years, he took control of Italia 1 and subsequently Rete 4.

Berlusconi had to contend with criticism from other independent TV operators. He was blamed for having contributed to the increased cost of acquiring foreign TV programs with his competitive buying policy.

Now Berlusconi appears to have more honors than critics and opponents. Since 1977 he has been a Cavaliere del Lavoro, being one of the youngest to achieve Italy's highest title in the field of labor and commerce. Considered by many to be an impulsive person, Berlusconi is surrounded by a number of top executives but still makes all of the major decisions himself. Meanwhile, his interest in the development of television speculations closer to home has taken him unsuccessfully to France and successfully to Spain.
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Title Annotation:Silvio Berlusconi; International Council's 1992 Directorate Award
Publication:Video Age International
Date:Nov 1, 1992
Previous Article:How the programs are judged today.
Next Article:Past, present and future.

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