Italo org slaps Mediaset over ad revs

Regulator says 'formal warnings' just the first step

MILAN — Media watchdogs on Friday accused commercial network Mediaset and pubcaster RAI of failing to respect the advertising revenue cap fixed by Italian law, dominating the market beyond allowable limits.

The Authority for Telecommunications, headed by Enzo Cheli, said that the “formal warnings” were just the first step and stronger measures may be taken in the future. The two networks could even be forced to sell assets if revenues continue exceeding the legal limits.

The verdict is the first of its kind in Italy and follows a probe that lasted several months.

The authority claimed that Mediaset, owned by Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, had a national TV advertising market share of at least 32.6% between 1998 and 2000, exceeding the 30% limit for national TV advertising revenues. It also exceeded the TV general revenues 30% cap, this includes ad sales and the TV tax revenues that the government gives RAI, but not Mediaset.

Considering all TV revenues, Mediaset accounted for at least 36.6% of the national market.

RAI has broken the legal limits only in the general TV revenues, with at least 42.4% of the total during that time. Considering only advertising, its revs were below 30%.

The authority said that the results of a new inquiry covering 2001-03 years will be announced in April.

National body Aeranti-Corallo, which includes more than 1,000 small radio and TV stations, expressed satisfaction with the ruling.

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