ROME — There’s good news and bad news for the 16 million Italians who have long grumbled about paying a TV license fee each year for the country’s much-maligned pubcaster.
The good news is that minister for communications Maurizio Gasparri said Sunday he intends to abolish the e93.80 ($92.56) fee, which brings in an annual $1.28 billion to RAI’s coffers. License fees are RAI’s principal source of income and a lifeline for the pubcaster, exceeding its annual haul of $1.18 billion in advertising revenue.
The bad news is that Gasparri plans to cover the lost revenue by introducing a television tax to be absorbed into personal income tax and calculated in proportion to individual earnings.
RAI director general Agostino Sacca is wary of the change. “Minister Gasparri knows the needs of our company, which must have resources to fulfill its duties as a public service,” He said. “Switching the burden to general taxation risks creating more problems than it solves.”
Alternative ad rate
An alternative is raising RAI’s advertising ceiling from 4% to 12% of general content.
Gasparri believes this would have only a minor impact on the ad revenues of RAI’s commercial TV rival Mediaset — owned by Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi — but that it could hit the ad sales of national newspapers and magazines, already afflicted by the slump in advertising.
“The way the wind is blowing, this could force many publications to close down,” Gasparri said. “And I don’t want to go down in history as the newspaper-killer minister.”
As the license fee is indispensable to RAI, Gasparri said the most likely solution will be to gradually phase it out.