ROME — Claiming Italian TV viewers are getting too many commercial breaks with their shows, the European Commission has taken legal action against the country in a move being blasted by Silvio Berlusconi’s Mediaset, which could be hurt by stricter rules.
“Broadcasters need advertising and advertisers need broadcasters; but we must also have effective consumer protection. What we actually need is responsible advertising,” said EU media commissioner Viviane Reding in a missive initiating an infringement procedure against the Italian government.
Under the procedure, Italy has two months respond. The country could be fined by the European Court of Justice if it fails to take satisfactory action.
According to the commission, Italy’s common practice of telesales within game shows, five-second mini-spots during sports events, as well as a barrage of breaks during movies, all contribute to breach the European Union limit on TV advertising set at 12 minutes of ad spots per hour.
Mediaset, which is Italy’s top commercial broadcaster and has been hard hit by an advertising downturn lately, is up in arms against the procedure, claiming in a statement that “Europe has made a blunder.”
Meanwhile, Italy’s Telecommunications Authority has slapped fines on both pubcaster RAI and Mediaset — Euros 230,000 ($ 337,000) and Euros 20,000 ($30,000) respectively — for violating the country’s current rules. Communications minister Paolo Gentiloni is also busy drafting legislation aiming to make Italo TV spot rules more stringent, in line with EU parameters.