RAI violated public service charter

ROME

Rupert Murdoch’s Sky Italia paybox has won a key victory against Italo pubcaster RAI after a Rome court ruled that RAI violated its public service charter by preventing access to Sky subscribers from some of its free programming, including the recent Euro 2012 soccer tournament.

The administrative court said RAI, which levies a $136 yearly license fee on all TV-owning homes, unfairly encrypted some of its free-to-air content to force some Sky subscribers to purchase an alternative decoder linked to Tivusat, a free satellite platform that RAI set up with Silvio Berlusconi’s Mediaset and Telecom Italia Media in 2009, when Berlusconi was prime minister.

The court said Italians have a right to watch all RAI programming no matter what decoder they have, adding that by blacking out content RAI was favoring Tivusat and providing “an economic advantage in favor of some operators in the television market present on the Tivusat platform.”

RAI has announced it will appeal.

Sky Italia, which has long lamented that the local media playing field is slanted in favor of Mediaset and RAI, called the ruling “a victory for all Sky subscribers,” and also “an important reminder that RAI must comply with its public service obligations toward all Italian citizens.”

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