Italy seeks EU opinion on News Corp channel

The Italian government has raised questions with the EU about News Corp’s planned free-to-air digital channel and whether it conforms to restrictions on the company’s broadcasting operations in the Italian market.

The launch of Cielo would mark News Corp’s first move into Italy’s free-to-air market, which is led by Rai and Mediaset, owned by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. When the EU approved the creation of Sky Italia in 2003, it banned News Corp from acquiring DTT channels until the start of 2012 and restricted it from operating pay-TV services over the DTT network. Italy’s Industry Ministry said its under-secretary for communications, Paolo Romani, sent a letter to the EU in November seeking an opinion on the potential launch. “We are evaluating . . . the legitimacy of the channel to broadcast in light of the restrictions,” the ministry said.