Government bows to opposition pressure

ROME — Italy’s new Silvio Berlusconi-led government has bowed to opposition pressure as well as a European Court ruling and dropped legislation that would have kept his Mediaset-owned Rete 4 on-air through 2012.

The court ruled in January that Italy’s media laws, passed by a previous Berlusconi government, violated competition norms by shutting out potential competitors to the Mediaset/RAI duopoly.

The case was bought by the now-defunct Centro Europa 7, which obtained rights for analog broadcasting in 1999. But it never went on air because Mediaset refused to shift Rete4 to satellite, freeing up analog space before the country’s switch to digital broadcasting in 2012.

One of Berlusconi’s first moves in his third term as prime minister was to try to avert the prospect of Rete 4’s move.

Opposition parliamentarians on Wednesday stormed out of the Lower House in protest against an amendment they called the “Save Rete 4 Bill.” As a result, the bill is now “being reformulated,” a government representative said.

It is still unclear whether the channel will really be evicted from its analog slot. An EU spokesman said Wednesday that further action on the case is still being decided.

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