MILAN (Reuters) - An Italian judge has asked the country's biggest private broadcaster Mediaset <MS.MI> and France's Vivendi <VIV.PA> to try to find an agreement over defamation suits they have launched against each other, a judicial source told Reuters.


The lawsuits are part of an ongoing dispute stemming from the French media group's decision in July last year to pull out of an April 2016 agreement to buy Mediaset's pay-TV unit.


The legal battle between the two groups escalated on Tuesday as they both sued each other for defamation on the opening day of a trial over the collapsed deal.


"The judge has decided that there must be an attempt to mediate (on the defamation suits), as envisaged by Italian law... and has given the parties time to do that," the source said.


The Milan-based judge scheduled in October the next hearing of the trial, which is expected to run for a long time. The two groups have until then to settle the defamation dispute.

(Reporting by Manuela D'Alessandro, writing by Giulia Segreti, editing by Silvia Aloisi and Valentina Za)