SAT-ITALY 28.03.1997


The administrative council of Italian state television RAI has authorized
the start of negotiations with state telecommunications operator Stet (more
precisely, it's multimedia subsidiary Stream) for forming an alliance on the
digital TV front. RAI's president Enzo Siciliano and director general Franco
Iseppi will "examine the possibility of starting a strategic alliance with
Stet in the areas of satellite, digital and cable television". There is a
strong possibility that this alliance will also include Telecom Italia.
When the new Telecommunications bill is passed by the Italian Senate, RAI
will be authorized to start pay-TV services, since up till now it has been
forbidden by law to do so. RAI has a great potential for producing programs
for specialized thematic channels while Stream has an experience in the
cable business, being responsible among other things for cabling up Italy.
Also, Stream has leased two valuable transponders on the EUTELSAT HOT BIRD 2
satellite which could be of interest for the new alliance.
The new French managers of the pay-TV network Telepiu have already expressed
some doubts about cooperating with Stet in the development of digital
services but have been very open for contacts with RAI, making no secret
that they are ready to sell a significant stake in Telepiu to the state
broadcaster. Many observers have emphasized that the Italian government is
in favor of forging a digital alliance between all the relevant media
players in Italy.

It seems the mini-series concerning the broadcast TV rights for Italian
league football is over with a draw between RAI and Cecchi Gori Group. The
two media companies have signed a joint agreement on March 19th which will
see them divide the rights between themselves.
RAI will get the rights to show the results, goals and highlights of the
games for the afternoon hours (15:00-19:00h), while Cecchi Gori's channels
TMC and TMC2 will be able to exclusively show more or less the same material
in the evening hours (19:00-22:30h). Furthermore, the TV rights to the
Italian cup games will be divided by half - with Cecchi Gori showing live a
game of the first three rounds and highlights of the later rounds (10 games)
and RAI broadcasting live the games of the other decisive Cup rounds. RAI
will also keep the radio rights which are a very important part of its
Sunday afternoon schedule.
A RAI spokesman has said the value of the TV rights package that goes to
Cecchi Gori is more than 60 million DEM, but the cost will be covered by
Cecchi Gori initially giving RAI 38 movie titles (out of which 18 are
premieres). This is a very important part of the deal since RAI's film
library is empty with no new movie titles on the shelves and the movies from
Cecchi Gori's vast archive will certainly be a program boost for the state
broadcaster. Among the movie titles are "La scuola", "Ferie d'Agosto",
"Smoke", "Viva San Isidro" and "Stealing Beauty". Cecchi Gori will also cede
another package of movie titles yet to be defined, but according to press
reports they could include "Casino, "Seven", "The usual suspects", "Heat"
and "Viaggi di nozze". 
The accord also grants RAI International the right to show live Italian
league football while Cecchi Gori Group will be responsible for selling the
foreign TV rights for the games (estimated to be worth around 60 million
DEM). More than 400 million viewers throughout the world tune into Italian
league football games. RAI has also promised to aid Cecchi Gori's two
channels to cover a larger part of the Italian territory (currently they
reach only 78%), but without giving up frequencies because it is not allowed
to do so by Italian law. In a press statement, Cecchi Gori Group says "they
consider the agreement definitive which resolves all previous disputes and a
first step towards a future climate of cooperation between all the players
on the TV scene".
Their principal rival on the Italian TV scene, Silvio Berlusconi's Mediaset
is already threatening legal action against their decision. But he also
faces other problems on the TV front. According to the new
Telecommunications bill and the government amendments to the same bill, he
will have to broadcast one of his 3 existing terrestrial channels (Rete 4)
only via satellite or cable in digital mode. Berlusconi says he is ready to
do so, but only if RAI does the same with RAI Tre. He has also asked for
government incentives for the sale of digital receivers.
The latest news is that the Italian football federation has conditioned
giving its approval to the RAI/TMC deal on both companies paying an
additional 100 million DEM for the TV rights.

Italian state television RAI has announced its plans for movie
preacquisitions and coproductions for the period 1997-1998 worth 108 million
DEM. RAI will spend 50 million this year and an additional 58 million DEM
next year. According to RAI president Enzo Siciliano "this represents an
increase of 200% compared to 1996. We would like to help the Italian film
industry but we are not a charity". During the last year, RAI financially
helped with 20 million DEM the production of 28 Italian and European movies. 
Already contracts for the acquisition of 50 movies have been signed among
them "Celluliode", "La tregua", "La mia generazione", Michelangelo
Antonioni's "Tanto per stare insieme", Van Dormael's "L'ottavo giorno" and
Nanni Moretti's "Aprile". Negotiations for another 20 movies are currently
underway, including Winterbottom's "Sarajevo" and Anna Maria Tato's
"L'autoritratto di Mastroianni".
However, one of the biggest Italian film producers, Fulvio Lucisano has
described the amount of money that RAI will invest into movie production "a
disgrace". According to him 108 million DEM divided by 120 movies comes out
to 800,000 DEM for each movie, while in comparison RAI invests 900 million
DEM for each episode of a series or mini-series.

For three times, unidentified pirates in the Italian province of Veneto have
succeeded in disturbing the reception of RAI Uno's key news program, "TG 1"
which is transmitted every night at 20:00 hr. The pirates struck for the
first time on March 17th in Venice and followed up on March 20th in Treviso
and 23rd in Verona. All three times, the audio of the news program was
interrupted for 8-15 minutes and viewers were treated to a political message
allegedly broadcast by a separatist movement from Venice. Besides asking
viewers to come to a political rally that is to be held in Venice on May
12th, the unidentified male voice asked them to stop paying the RAI license fee.
According to technical specialists, the pirate must have known the broadcast
frequency of RAI's TV channel (which is transmitted in the VHF band) or of
the link. The pirate transmitter must have been distant 15-20 km. from the
site of RAI's relay station and it is probable that the pirate transmission
(whose power is estimated at around 40 watts) originates from a van or car
which has been on the move in the Veneto area.The cost of the transmission
equipment used by the pirate is around 10,000 DEM. 

The German media group Kirch has responded to press reports in the Italian
media that they plan to sell their share in the holding TV company Mediaset.
A statement issued by the company said that "We have all intention to remain
as a shareholder in Mediaset and we don't have plans of selling our stake".
Previous press reports had said that Kirch, which holds a 4.5% stake in
Mediaset, plans to sell 2% of its stake to other investors and is also
interested in selling its 45% stake in pay-TV network Telepiu.
However, the Italian daily "Corriere della Sera" reports that from next
month, the so-called "lock-up" agreement signed between Fininvest, the
principal shareholder of Mediaset and its strategic partners Nethold/Canal
Plus, PTB (Leo Kirch's holding company) and Saudi prince Al Waleed is set to
expire. Under the terms of this agreement, from April 12th, the Mediaset
shareholders will be able to sell their shares (at special prices and under
certain conditions) which amount to 13,1% of the total capital. Silvio
Berlusconi's company Fininvest holds a majority stake - 50,7%. 
There has been some speculation that Al Waleed, who bought a 2,3% stake in
Mediaset back in 1995, is seeking to sell his participation which is valued
at around 200 million DEM. Al Waleed is allegedly in need of cash for
financing his new acquisitions. 

The new government amendments to the Telecommunications bill do not include
any mentions of the future of the only Italian pay-TV network Telepiu. It's
position will probably be resolved in the next few months, but it seems that
is linked to an eventual deal which would see RAI and Stet entering Telepiu
as shareholders, together with Canal Plus and Mediaset. Currently, Canal
Plus holds a 45% stake (inherited from Nethold) in Telepiu but is also close
to acquiring an additional 45% from Leo Kirch. The remaining 10% is in hands
of Silvio Berlusconi's Fininvest.

                                   FOR THE WEEK MARCH 23-29

30.III - RAI UNO, 20:45h - The land before time (USA-88) - animated feature -
30.III - RAI TRE, 20:50h - Il grande fausto -  Part II (ITA), starring:
Sergio Castellitto, Ornella Muti
31.III - RAI UNO, 20:50h - Captain Ron (USA-92), starring: Kurt Russell,
Martin Short
1.IV - RAI TRE - 21:50h - Grand Hotel Excelsior (ITA-82), starring: Adriano
2.IV - RAI DUE, 20:50h - Piedone, l'Africano (ITA-78), starring: Bud
Spencer, Enzo Cannavale
3.IV - RAI DUE, 20:50h - The chase (USA-94), starring: Charlie Sheen, Kristy
4.IV - RAI TRE, 20:40h - Time cop (USA-94), starring: Jean-Claude Van Damme,
Mia Sara
4.IV - RAI UNO, 22:50h - Blade Runner (USA-82), starring: Harrison Ford,
Rutger Hauer, Daryl Hannah
5.IV - RAI UNO, 20:50h - Gone with the wind (USA-39), starring: Clark Gable,
Vivien Leigh, Olivia de Havilland
5.IV - RAI DUE, 20:50h - True crime (USA-95), starring: Alicia Silverstone,
Kevin Dillon
5.IV - RAI DUE, 00:25h - Passage to Hong Kong (UK-59), starring: Orson
Welles, Curt Jurgens
5.IV - RAI UNO, 01:10h - Les amants de Pont Neuf (FRA-91), starring:
Juliette Binoche, Denise Levant

30.III - RAI DUE, 13:25h - Formula 1: GP Brazil - heats -
30.III - RAI DUE, 17:15h - Formula 1: GP Brazil - live -
1.IV - RAI TRE, 19:55h - Football: EC qualifiers (under 21) POLAND-ITALY
2.IV - RAI TRE, 15:40h - Basketball: Italian league, 1/8 finals play-off
2.IV - RAI UNO, 20:25h - Football: WC qualifiers, POLAND-ITALY, live from
3.IV - RAI TRE, 16:00h - Basketball (w): European cup, final CARIPARMA-CSKA
4.IV - RAI TRE, 14:55h - Tennis: Davis cup, quarterfinals  ITALY-SPAIN 
4.IV - RAI DUE, 18:25h - Tennis: Davis cup, quarterfinals  ITALY-SPAIN
5.IV - RAI TRE, 15:25h - Volleyball: Italian league, quarterfinals
5.IV - RAI TRE, 17:25h - Tennis: Davis cup, quarterfinals ITALY-SPAIN 
5.IV - RAI DUE, 18:50h - Tennis: Davis cup, quarterfinals  ITALY-SPAIN

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