Debate continues over Italian TV reform plan

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ROME -- Debate on Italy's controversial television sector reform plan restarted Thursday, a day after the European Union threatened to fine the Italian government as much as €400,000 ($564,000) per day for having obsolete rules on its books.

The so-called Gentiloni reform is the Italian government response to EU demands that Italy pass an updated set of rules for the sector in order to increase prospects for competition and adapt to new technologies. The reform stalled in parliament and was tabled in September after criticisms from opposition lawmakers allied to former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Berlusconi, who also controls Mediaset, the country's largest broadcaster, has opposed the reform on the grounds that it would be damaging to Mediaset and other broadcasters.

When the Gentiloni plan did not appear on the latest parliamentary calendar that covers the rest of the year, it prompted EU Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes to threaten stiff fines. A day later, the debate on the measure was placed on the calendar and debate was restarted, according to information from parliamentary sources.

It is not clear how long it will take to gather enough support to pass the reform given that most parliamentary resources are directed at debating the country's 2008 budget, which must be passed by the end of the year. It also is not clear when the fines Kroes promised would go into effect.

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