Subsidies given to consumers by Italian media group Mediaset—controlled by Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi—and state broadcaster RAI to buy or rent digital television receivers are the subject of a detailed investigation launched this week by the European Commission.
Confirming the investigation, launched after receiving complaints from pay-TV group Sky Italia, EC competition commissioner Neelie Kroes said subsidies granted in 2004 and 2005 may have given Mediaset and RAI an unfair advantage in the Italian digital television market. Separately, Italy's anti-trust authority said it too would investigate the digital decoder subsidies.
In a statement the EC said the subsidies—totalling ?200m—were not technology neutral since they covered digital terrestrial and digital cable, but not digital satellite. "The Commission's investigation will aim at establishing whether these incentives are liable to distort competition," said the statement. "EC Treaty state aid rules require Member States not to grant aids or subsidies which distort or threaten to distort competition within the EU's Single Market."
Kroes said: "The Commission is firmly committed to encouraging the transition to digital TV and values interoperability, but state support must avoid unnecessary distortions of competition between terrestrial, cable and satellite platforms. In this case the subsidy seems to help free-to-air operators to enter the pay-TV market".
Meanwhile, Mediaset is buying infrastructure and digital frequencies from Europa TV, allowing it to start broadcasting to mobile phones in the second half of 2006. Europa TV is controlled by Franco-Tunisian film producer Tarak ben Ammar and French broadcaster TF1. The mobile TV service will use the DVB-H standard.
Links open in a new window. The DTG is not responsible for the content of other web sites.