Mediaset, Silvio Berlusconi's private Italian network, recorded a 45.7% rise in net profits in 2002 to Euros 362m.

In 2001, net profits had slipped to Euros 248.4m on the back of losses linked to the company's minority stake in KirchMedia.

Overall, however, the group's net financial position on December 31st 2002 still showed a deficit - this time of Euros 170. 8m compared to the Euros 247.8m recorded last year. The improvement, Mediaset said, was due to savings of Euros 126m in television rights.

Gross profits jumped to Euros 497.1m from Euros 418.1m in 2001, while consolidated net revenues were in line with 2001 results: Euros 2.32bn compared to Euros 2.35bn the previous year.

Operating profitability remained high at 24.1% (25% in 2001 and 29.4% in 2000).

Significantly, the group's advertising revenue increased for the second year running, in sharp contrast to a global industry marked by a general slowdown in investments and revenues.

Mediaset's advertising revenues from third parties for its channels amounted to Euros 2.43bn, up Euros 8.5m (0.4%) on 2001.