Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi has publicly defended the controversial new media law which is set to consolidate his sprawling media empire in an inflammatory press conference, where he pointed out that it will prevent 1,000 people from losing their jobs at one of his Mediaset TV channels.

The Gasparri Law, which must now receive the seal of approval of Italian president Carlo Azeglio Ciampi before it becomes law, allows Berlusconi's Rete 4 channel - one of this three private networks - and RAI 3 to continue to broadcast on free-to-air television.

Provisions had been made by previous governments to transfer Rete 4 to satellite TV, effectively freeing up 1600 terrestrial broadcasting frequencies.

"If the Gasparri Law had been different, we would have had to close down Rete 4, because its advertising revenue would have [significantly] dropped and we would have had to cut 1,000 jobs," Berlusconi said at a press conference.

The new law, which paves the way for digital TV transmission, will also let TV companies control a bigger slice of the advertising market.

"There is no way TV advertising would cross over to newspapers anyway," Berlusconi said, adding: "Companies don't advertise their beauty products or nappies on newspapers, because everyone knows housewives don't read newspapers."

During the conference, which was held to promote a new book by Italian TV journalist Bruno Vespa, Berlusconi also heavily attacked the Italian press.

Addressing journalists in the conference, the premier said: "Newspapers are for an elite. In Italy, only 4.8m newspapers are sold each day, without counting sports newspapers. So 70 percent of the articles you write, are only read by yourselves and your editors."

"Our future is digital. Newspapers are obsolete. Your battles are like those of the people who used to build horse-driven carriages and wanted to stop the spread of cars. You can't stop progress."

He continued: "This isn't an attack. It's an observation. Yes, in Italy, there is a dictatorship, dear editors. You are the dictators."

The Berlusconi family owns two newspapers: Milan's Il Giornale and Il Foglio. Berlusconi also owns current affairs magazine Panorama.