Italian broadcaster RAI moving on reforms

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ROME -- Italian state broadcaster RAI agreed to a wide-reaching reform to be carried out this year, and it agreed to terms for a switchover to digital broadcasting on the island of Sardinia, making it the first part of Italy to abandon traditional analog television signals.

According to a transcript of two days of closed-door meetings released Friday, RAI agreed to take "concrete action" this year that will decide the future of the three-network broadcaster. Among the issues to be decided are how to carry out transforming one RAI network into an advertising-free entity and other ways to improve the quality of programming.

The reform of RAI is part of a more general reform of the media sector, which will put a cap on any one broadcaster's share of the ad market and will force broadcasters to completely switch to high-tech digital signals no later than 2012.

That change is already set to get under way in Sardinia, the island region west of the Italian mainland. With RAI's decision to comply, all three national broadcasters in Italy -- RAI, Silvio Berlusconi's Mediaset, and Telecom Italia Media's La 7 -- have agreed to the terms for a switch to digital signals on Sardinia by Sept. 1.

According to the terms, those three companies will divvy up 22 of the 29 digital frequencies available for the island. Local broadcasters will use the remaining seven, the agreement said.

Each frequency can contain five or six channels communications regulator Agcom will decide how the 22 frequencies will be divided by March 1.
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