The Italian government delays its plans to place collecting society SIAE under special control.

MILAN -- The Italian government has delayed its plans to place collecting society SIAE under special control.

The government's "commissionership" of SIAE, which was announced by cultural heritage minister Rocco Buttiglione on July 27, was due to be discussed at a cabinet meeting Aug. 3. However, this has been put back to September at the earliest.

A key factor in the delay was a media campaign launched by SIAE members, who published open letters to Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi in several national dailies. The letter called on Berlusconi not to pass the measure, which would have amounted to "an intolerable interference."

A number of publishing companies, both major and independent, also announced that they would entrust their catalogs to collecting societies in other European territories in the event of government commissionership.

SIAE was run by a government-appointed commissioner Mauro Masi from 1999 to 2003, ostensibly to redress its financial situation. Yet the majority of SIAE members believe that government administration today would be a thinly-disguised land grab by some of Italy's political parties. In their letter to Berlusconi, SIAE members point out that, with a profit of €3.6 million ($4.5 million), the society's balance sheet has never been healthier, and that the financial case for commissionership is non-existent.

In spite of the delay in commissionership, SIAE remains in turmoil. Its president, Franco Migliacci, resigned on May 11, while his successor, Ivan Cecchini, followed suit on July 27. The following day the society's director general, Gianni Profita, was removed from office by the society's governing body and replaced by society veteran Angelo Della Valle.