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Mediaset will appeal EU’s Italian DTT ruling

Mediaset said it will appeal yesterday’s European Commission ruling that Sky Italia can enter the contest for new digital terrestrial channel slots in Italy.

In allowing Sky to move for DTT spectrum the Commission has lifted one of the conditions imposed in 2003 when News Corp engineered the merger of its pay-TV operation Stream with rival operator Telepiù. It acceded to Sky’s request but said it should only be allowed to bid for one channel and that channel must be operated on an exclusively free-to-air basis for five years.

The Commission said that it agreed to lift the earlier restriction on Sky because of significant changes in the Italian TV market in the last few years. Sky is now free to enter the beauty contest for DTT spectrum that is being organised by the country’s communications regulator Agcom. It will award five channel slots in all.

News Corp-backed Sky welcomed the ruling. “We are obviously very happy with today’s decision. The Commission has confirmed the Italian TV market has undergone significant changes in the last few years, driven also by Sky Italia’s constant commitment to bringing new competition, innovation and choice to a market historically dominated by two incumbents,” said Sky CEO Tom Mockridge.“If Sky Italia is successful in its DTT bid, the Italian consumer stands to gain once again, as do potential advertisers.” 

However, Berlusconi-family controlled media group Mediaset said it was “disconcerted” by the EU ruling and that it allowed a monopoly pay-TV provider to compete for scarce DTT frequency . “We believe that the conditions established by the Commission in 2003, which prevented Sky from entering the digital-terrestrial TV market until 2012 on account of its dominant position in the pay-TV market, remain entirely valid, as, indeed, the market test carried out among all the Italian operators has demonstrated,” it said in a statement.