Sky Italia provokes Mediaset ire

Mockridge presses for entry into pay DTT market

The war between the TV groups of rival moguls Rupert Murdoch and Italo Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi heated up Monday when News Corp. paybox Sky Italia provoked a slanging match by calling for rules banning its participation in Italy’s pay digital terrestrial market be shelved.

In a letter to daily paper Corriere della Sera, Sky Italia CEO Tom Mockridge called for the “removal as soon as possible” of a 2003 EU law barring its entry into pay DTT before 2012.

Mockridge went on to castigate the poor state of local TV, blaming the lack of competitiveness on the duopoly created by Berlusconi’s Mediaset group of channels and pubcaster RAI, which Berlusconi also controls as prime minister.

Mockridge also called for politicians to stop meddling in RAI, so that it could “resume its public service remit.”

The letter provoked an angry response from Mediaset.

Berlusconi’s most trusted lieutenant, Mediaset president Fedele Confalonieri, said he would “take no lessons on anti-competitiveness from the most dominant media group in the world.”

He accused Mockridge of hypocrisy, using a four-letter Neapolitan invective that suggested the Sky Italia chief was shedding crocodile tears while he continued to exploit the TV market.

Mediaset is smarting from developments in July when the European Commission cleared the way for Sky Italia to enter the DTT market if it stuck to free programming before 2012. Its latest push to offer pay DTT ahead of 2012 has set alarm bells ringing at Mediaset, which runs its lucrative Premium Gallery paybox on DTT.