Italy slices up digital frequency pie

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ROME -- A total of 40% of the bandwidth from new digital frequencies will be reserved for the seven existing Italian national terrestrial broadcasters when the switch to the digital platform is completed in 2012, the country's communications regulator said Monday.

Though the figure is not a big surprise, it is the first time that the breakdown of the high-tech digital bandwidth has been released. The 40% figure means that the remaining portion of the bandwidth will be reserved for regional players and new entries into the market.

Though it is not known what companies may be interested in entering the Italian digital broadcasting sector, it is assumed that News Corp. subsidiary Sky-Italia -- the country's leading satellite broadcaster -- will make a push into the new sector.

The seven national terrestrial broadcasters include three owned by state broadcaster RAI, three controlled by former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's Mediaset, and La 7, the smallest national network, a subsidiary of the former national telephone monopoly Telecom Italia.

Italy has recently started focusing on the switch from terrestrial broadcast technology to digital technology. Earlier this year, the government ruled that both RAI and Mediaset had to switch at least one national network to an entirely digital platform by 2009. On Nov. 20, it was revealed that the government's 2007 budget will include rebates worth up to €200 ($260) for Italians who buy television sets that can receive digital signals between 2007 and 2009.
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