TS News - New Italian Telecommunications Bill

TELE-satellit News, 5 August 1996

New Italian Telecommunications Bill
  ROME, Italy, 96/08/01 (SATELIT TV VIDEO) -- The Italian Parliament has
approved a draft version of the new Telecommunications bill presented by
Italian minister for Posts and Telecommunications Antonio Maccanico. This
new revolutionary bill will enable the rapid development of multimedia
activities, satellite and cable television as well as other subscriber and
pay-per-view services.

  Here is an overview of the most important points:

  First of all, the two leading TV networks, the state-owned RAI and
Berlusconis MEDIASET will have to give up one of the three channels both
networks own. That is because the new bill stipulates that no one TV company
can own more than 20% of the total national terrestrial TV market. In the
current situation in which there are 12 licensed national TV channels, 20%
means that one TV company cannot own more than two TV channels. 

  RAI and MEDIASET have to conform to the new bill by 27. August 1997.
MEDIASET will have to sell one of their 3 TV channels (most probably RETE 4)
or put it up on satellite. The situation for RAI is a bit different. Their
third channel, RAI TRE will become a federal channel (tentatively named RAI
REGIONI), half-financed by the TV license and the other half will come from
local communities. No advertising will be allowed on the new RAI REGIONI

  No media company will be allowed to own more than 30% of the total media
market (TV, radio, print) which will certainly be a blow to media magnate
Silvio Berlusconi, already involved in terrestrial and pay-TV as well as
owning several publications. The bill stipulates that by the end of January
of next year, there will be a new assigning of TV frequencies for
terrestrial TV channels (the last round was in 1992). For satellite and
cable channels a simple permit will be enough. A new Authority will be set
up made up of eight members who will be nominated by Parliament, with the
President of the Authority being nominated by the Prime minister and
Minister of post and telecommunications.

  Concerning advertising, the new bill prohibits national TV channels from
devoting more than 15% of total daily programming to advertising. During one
given hour, only 16% (down from 18%) can be taken up by advertising . This
provision of the bill has already been criticized by MEDIASET (annual
revenues total 3300 billion lira a year) who are set to loose 755 billion
lira in lost advertising revenues.

  During movies, advertisements will be permitted if the total running time
exceeds 45 minutes. On the other hand advertisements cannot interrupt news
broadcasts, religious programs, sports events (only during half-time).
Movies that are intended for 14 year old viewers and older will only be
transmitted from 22.30 till 07.00.

  Finally, the new bill will allow multimedia mergers between leading
Italian telecommunications companies such as Stet/Telecom Italia (the state
owned telecommunication operator), Olivetti, RAI and MEDIASET. Stream, the
holding company of Stet will loose its monopoly on building cable systems.
From 1. January 1998, the local communities will be responsible for issuing
permits for cable licenses, which will certainly attract foreign investors.

  By Branislav Pekic

(c)TELE-satellit 1996. All rights reserved.

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