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By ESPN Staff

Italian Government steps into TV rights row

ROME, Jan 18 (Reuters) - Italy's communications minister Mario Landolfi told Serie A clubs and television networks to find a compromise on Wednesday and resolve a row about TV rights that has threatened the competition.

Fourteen Serie A sides had threatened to boycott matches against Juventus, AC Milan and Inter Milan in a multi-million euro dispute about how clubs sell their broadcast rights.

Landolfi, after a three hour meeting with soccer and television chiefs, told a news conference he had told those involved to use their good sense to broker a deal.

'Those in charge of soccer and television have been urged to find a solution that guarantees the championship and fulils the needs of the broadcasters,' Landolfi said.

Clubs, led by Fiorentina owner Diego Della Valle, had demanded a return to collective bargaining with the aim of spreading television revenue more equally among the division's 20 teams.

But the proposal was blocked by prime minister Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia political party, drawing again to the headlines accusations of conflict between Berlusconi's political and media interests.

The Berlusconi family holding company Fininvest owns AC Milan, one of the teams that benefits most from dealing individually with television companies. Fininvest also controls Mediaset, Italy's leading private broadcaster.

Riccardo Perissich, chairman of broadcaster Telecom Italia Media, said a return to collective bargaining was likely.

'It is probable that we will move towards the collective sale of television rights: we achieved consensus today that the current system of bargaining needs to be replaced,' he said.

Italian Football Association chairman Franco Carraro said he believed it would be possible to find a solution to ensure that the league ran smoothly. The focus was brokering a new deal to avoid the 'excessive discrepancy' between what clubs can earn from TV rights, he said.

Italian clubs have negotiated their own deals since 1999, a situation that has allowed sides such as Juve, Milan and Inter, to earn up to 10 times more than their smaller rivals.

Clubs in England, Spain, France and Germany negotiate their deals collectively in order to spread the revenues more evenly.