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Sky Italia and Mediaset resume war of words

Italian broadcasters Sky Italia and Mediaset have exchanged accusation and counter-accusation that the other dominates the country’s media market.

Sky Italia CEO Tom Mockridge kicked off the latest war of words by accusing Mediaset, which is controlled by the family of prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, of dominating the Italian media business and arguing that “more freedom in the TV sector” was needed to encourage competition. Mockridge alleged that the Italian system had allowed Mediaset to achieve such a dominant position that it controlled 65% of advertising revenue.

Mediaset chairman Fedele Confalonieri responded by accusing Mockridge of having “at last…learned to speak Italian with an Neapolitan accent, chiagn’e fotte”, meaning roughly that “although he’s whining, he’s simultaneously taking advantage of everybody else’s wife”, according to the Mediaset executive.

Confalionieri went on to rebut Mockridge’s arguments: “He points to Mediaset’s position in advertising, without declaring his own monopolist position in satellite TV with control over almost 90% of the pay-TV revenues. He complains that he faces restrictive rules that, however, have not prevented his company in just seven years to overtake Mediaset in terms of revenues and to come very close to those of RAI.”

The truth, said Confalionieri, was that in no other European country “with the exception of Great Britain” had Sky been able to reach such a significant position. “This is why we defend the right to not accept lessons in competition from a representative of the world’s most dominant media empire,” he said.

The background to the dispute involves the implementation by the Italian government of restrictions on the number of minutes that pay-TV platforms could allocate to advertising, while at the same time increasing the number of minutes that free-to-air channels, including Mediaset’s, could give over to ads.

Sky also believes that the Italian government has put obstacles in the way of it gaining frequencies on the country’s digital-terrestrial network. The European Commission said in July that the broadcaster should be allowed to bid for frequencies.