THE BBC is suing Silvio Berlusconi's television network after accusing the Italian broadcaster of copying its Strictly Come Dancing format.
Lawyers for BBC Worldwide, the corporation’s commercial wing, claim Mediaset has breached copyright by scheduling a racier version of the dance show.
A BBC-licensed version of Strictly, entitled Bailando Con Le Stelle (Dancing With The Stars), has been running on Rai, the Italian public broadcaster, for the last six years.
But Mediaset is now set to launch a rival show on its Canale 5 channel called Baila!
It is based on a South American dance show, Bailando Por Un Sueno, which translates as Dancing For A Dream.
The BBC recently threatened legal action against the Argentine version of Bailando, when a model danced topless and simulated sex.
Rai and the BBC are now preparing a joint action against Mediaset, which is being considered by a court in Rome.
Mediaset, which is owned by Mr Berlusconi’s family, has denied copying the format, claiming there are key differences.
Where the Rai show, like Strictly, partners celebrities with professional dancers, the Mediaset version uses talented amateur dancers and celebrities.
Pier Silvio Berlusconi, the Prime Minister's son and deputy chairman of Mediaset, said: “It is a dancing talent show with the peculiarity of involving both celebrities and normal people.
“The dance talent show is a format that works on commercial television everywhere in the world. We certainly wouldn't claim that the only reality format is Big Brother.”
A spokesman for the BBC said: "BBC Worldwide takes the protection of its copyright extremely seriously and is currently undertaking legal action in Italy to protect its Dancing With The Stars format.
"It has been named as the world's most successful reality TV format and has been licensed to over 35 international broadcasters.
"It is very important to BBC Worldwide and its international licensees that the format is protected from infringement."