Italian media tycoon Silvio Berlusconi has been cleared of breaking competition laws by an investigation into state subsidisation of set-top boxes for digital televisions.
Neither he, his company MediaSet SPA, which runs a pay-TV division, nor his brother Paolo, whose Solari.com business distributes set-top boxes, will suffer sanctions as a result of the probe.
Italy's antitrust body found that Berlusconi, the country's outgoing prime minister, did not infringe conflict-of-interest regulations by encouraging consumers to invest in decoder boxes for digital television. Since 2004 the Italian government had allocated ?200m (£137m) to pay for around one half of the cost of every set-top box purchased by members of the public.
The authority has also remarked that a state budget of ?10m (£6.8m) set aside by Berlusconi's administration earlier this year was of no concern as it was aimed at only two of Italy's 20 regions and concerned decoders using technology not unique to any one broadcaster—devices known as 'open'—and therefore did not favour MediaSet.
"The possible impact on the pay-TV market operators would be rather limited," said the regulator.
The probe was prompted last year by Sky Italia, a pay-television arm of Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation, which contacted the EU to voice its concerns about the subsidies. The Italian antitrust regulator added that Sky Italia could not qualify for the grants because the transmission standard of its choice was not open.
Other critics had previously complained of monopolistic behaviour by Berlusconi, whose centre-right government has subsidised Italy's move to DTT on a much larger scale than any other country in Europe.
Berlusconi, who is scheduled this week to hand over power to centre-left rival Romano Prodi, is still the subject of a separate investigation by the EU into whether the ?200m state of subsidies for digital set-top boxes have distorted fair business by not being available for satellite services, only terrestrial.
Links open in a new window. The DTG is not responsible for the content of other web sites.