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Mediaset loses subsidy ruling

Italo TV group to repay millions of Euros

MILAN — Italo TV group Mediaset has failed to overturn a European Commission ruling to repay millions of Euros in state subsidies that helped consumers buy digital decoders.

The Luxembourg-based EC General Court upheld on Tuesday the original ruling that the subsidies breached Euro competition rules. As a result Mediaset, which is owned by Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, must repay some of the money to the state treasury.

The court said that the subsidies — worth E220 million ($270 million) from 2004 to 2005 — had “conferred an indirect advantage on digital terrestrial broadcasters to the detriment of satellite broadcasters.”

The EC’s original ruling followed complaints by Rupert Murdoch’s satcaster Sky Italia. It said that Mediaset, which specializes in digital terrestrial TV, had stood to gain by seeing more people use its lucrative Premium Gallery paybox.

It is up to the Italian courts, however, to decide how much money should be recovered. No one from Mediaset was available to comment on the courts ruling.

In a statement, Mediaset maintained that it had enjoyed no special advantage from the subsidies and announced that it would appeal to the European Court of Justice.

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