Italy’s digital date

Officials sked switchover for end of 2003

ROME — Italy’s Telecommunications Authority has fixed Dec. 31, 2003, as the deadline for conversion to digital transmission of terrestrial commercial web Rete 4 and feevee channel Telepiu Nero. It also will axe advertising on pubcaster RAI-3 on that date.

The directive was announced Wednesday by authority head Enzo Cheli. However, the switchover hinges on 50% penetration of digital technology in Italian households by then.

An evaluation will be made at the end of 2002. If 45% of Italians have viewing capability for satellite, cable or terrestrial digital transmission, the deadline may be moved forward; if not, the conversion may be delayed.

Representatives from Rete 4, which is one of the three national webs in Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s Mediaset TV unit, and RAI have criticized the decision, which has been brewing for considerable time.

RAI resistance

RAI president Roberto Zaccaria in particular has spoken out, noting that Rete 4 will be able to reach a new market of satellite consumers while RAI-3 will not be compensated for lost ad revenue, placing it at a commercial disadvantage.

Cheli also announced that new regulations for licenses for digital terrestrial transmission will be announced in September, and that the introduction of a single set-top decoder accessing Telepiu and Stream digital platforms has been set for Aug. 26.

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