Mediaset to appeal EC reimbursement order

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BRUSSELS -- Italian broadcaster Mediaset said Thursday it will appeal a European Commission order that it reimburse the Italian government millions of euros in state subsidies for digital TV decoders.

The broadcaster argued that the subsidies for the transition from analog to digital broadcasting were aimed at consumers. "They had no beneficial impact for the business of the companies," Mediaset said in a statement, and there were, therefore, "no grounds for any request for refunds."

The commission -- the EU's antitrust authority -- on Wednesday said that government subsidies for decoders "created an undue distortion of competition by excluding satellite technology," and ordered broadcasters, including Mediaset and RAI, to repay more than €200 million ($259.3 million) in aid (HR 1/24).

The refund will be calculated on the basis of the extra revenue cashed in from pay-per-view plans and also will involve Telecom Italia unit Telecom Italia Media SpA and Fastweb SpA.

The EC originally investigated the aid after it received a complaint from News Corp. satellite pay TV unit Sky Italia, which claimed the decoder subsidies were unfair, as the set-top boxes needed to decode satellite television were not included in the government subsidies program.
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