BBC Worldwide to sue Silvio Berlusconi's TV network

image captionThe UK version of the show is presented by Bruce Forsyth and Tess Daly

BBC Worldwide is suing an Italian television network owned by Silvio Berlusconi over claims that it has copied Strictly Come Dancing.

A hearing is due to take place on Friday about a new show called Baila!, which is set to debut on Mediaset's Canale 5 later this month.

BBC Worldwide contends it copies Strictly's concept, which has been called the most successful reality format in the world.

Mediaset has denied the accusations.

In a statement to BBC News, Mediaset said: "This is perhaps the first time in the history of television that an accusation of plagiarism is levelled against a programme that hasn't even yet been broadcast.

"It will be the judge to make the final decision, but Mediaset remains convinced that Baila! is a different programme to the BBC's format and that of Rai's Dancing With The Stars.

"We simply want the opportunity to show this to the public as well."

Strictly Come Dancing, which pits celebrity amateurs against each other in a weekly ballroom dancing competition, has been sold to more than 35 countries.

In many of them, including the US version, it is known as Dancing With The Stars.

An authorised Italian version is already run by another broadcaster, Rai, which took Mediaset to court in Rome over the format earlier this year.

A separate hearing for that case has been scheduled to take place on 23 September.

Mediaset contends it based its programme on a different format - Mexican show Dancing For A Dream - which has become renowned for its racy, sexualised dance routines.

As well as Mediaset, BBC Worldwide has also accused Televisa Mexico and Endemol, the company producing Baila!, of being in breach of copyright.

"It is very important to BBC Worldwide and its international licensees that the format is protected from infringement," a BBC Worldwide statement said.

Baila! features celebrities partnered with members of the public, while Dancing With The Stars features celebrities paired with professional dancers.

Mediaset's deputy chairman and son of the Italian prime minister, Pier Silvio Berlusconi, has said the show was a unique format.

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