Commission takes legal action against TV unit

Claiming there are too many commercial breaks in Italo shows, the European Commission has taken legal action against the country in a move Silvio Berlusconi’s Mediaset TV group has blasted.

“Broadcasters need advertising and advertisers need broadcasters; but we must also have effective consumer protection,” said EU media commissioner Viviane Reding in a missive kicking off an infringement procedure against the Italian government.

According to the EC, Italy’s practice of telesales within gameshows, five-second minispots during sports events, as well as a barrage of breaks during movies, together breach the European Union limit on TV advertising set at 12 minutes of ad spots per hour.

Italy has two months to respond. The country could be fined by the European Court of Justice if it fails to take satisfactory action.

Mediaset, Italy’s top commercial broadcaster, which has been hard hit by a recent advertising downturn, is up in arms, claiming that “Europe has made a blunder.”

Meanwhile, Italy’s Telecommunications Authority has slapped fines on pubcaster RAI and Mediaset — e230,000 ($337,000) and $30,000, respectively — for violating the current rules.

Communications Minister Paolo Gentiloni is also drafting legislation to bring Italo TV spot rules in line with EU parameters.

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