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Mediaset repels EC attack

Report is critical of ad blitz

ROME — Mediaset on Friday rejected as baseless a European Commission report that accused Italian broadcasters, and in particular the Silvio Berlusconi-controlled media giant, of showing an excessive amount of TV ads to its viewers.

Earlier in the week, the EC fired off a warning letter to Italy’s communications ministry saying Italian commercial broadcasters were guilty of numerous advertising infractions by regularly exceeding the limit on the number of TV ads and in-show product placements that can be aired on an hourly or daily basis.

The report singled out Mediaset’s free-to-air stations Canale 5 and Rete 4, and Telecom Italia’s free-to-air station La 7 as the primary abusers.

One practice criticized by the report is the use of so-called “mini-spots,” in which the broadcaster would break from live action of, say, a soccer match to a brief ad. The ad format, which is only sporadically used these days, has been slowly fazed out with oversight from Italy’s independent communications industry authority Agcom.

The EC study also criticised at which point and the frequency with which broadcasters interrupt televised films. Agcom responded to this criticism saying they have been issuing a series of fines to broadcasters which show an excessive number of ads during televised movies.

Mediaset disagreed with the study’s findings, saying “it is perfectly possible that academic research can demonstrate one thing, while another research would indicate exactly the opposite.”

The broadcaster added that it has joined Telecom Italia in proposing an industry standard for the frequency with which it broadcasts TV ads.

The EU report comes at a difficult stretch for Italy’s largest broadcaster. Mediaset has been hit hard by a slump in Italy’s TV ad market and the government is proposing sweeping reforms that would further limit Mediaset’s potential TV advertising income.

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