Rupert Murdoch’s Sky Italia satcaster has pulled out of Italy’s tender for digital terrestrial frequencies, citing an overly long, convoluted process that favors incumbents — including former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s Mediaset TV group.

“We hope our decision will … open a constructive debate on a process that risks slowing growth rather than promoting it,” Sky Italia CEO Andrea Zappia said in a statement.

Italy’s DTT field is dominated by Mediaset and pubcaster RAI, while Sky has just one DTT channel, Cielo (which means “Sky” in Italian).

Sky had engaged in a fierce legal battle with the recently exited Berlusconi government to participate in the bidding, receiving authorization in July 2010 from the European Commission, which stressed that Sky had already helped open up the TV market and that its participation in the DTT tender would further this process.

But the tender, which assigns frequencies for free, favors incumbents by requiring new players to commit to massive investments.

The process, set up by the Berlusconi administration, favored his Mediaset TV channels.

“We hope that our decision, as difficult and weighty as it might be, provides the impetus for an open and constructive debate on the future of television in Italy,” Sky Italia said in its statement.

Others still in the race are Tarak Ben Ammar’s Prima TV and local players Canale Italia, Telecom Italia and Europa 7.