Regulator slaps down Sky Italia ads

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ROME -- Italy's competition watchdog on Tuesday fined satellite broadcaster Sky Italia for misleading advertising.

The €33,000 ($45,540) fine will not have much of an impact on Sky's bottom line, but it is significant because it is the first time -- after three warnings -- that the News Corp. unit has been issued a financial penalty for its advertising.

The ad campaign that led to the fine promised subscription services beginning at €11 ($15.18) per month, when in reality the basic subscription costs much more once fees and other costs are factored in. Basic subscriptions also require a long-term commitment, which is not clear based on the ad in question.

The ads also implied that a 50% discount is available on all subscription plans, when it is only available on one such plan.

Sky can appeal the ruling, but it must suspend the questionable ads immediately, the antitrust authority said.

Sky Italia is by far the country's largest satellite broadcaster. With more than 4 million subscribers, it is beginning to challenge entrenched rivals such as state broadcaster RAI and Silvio Berlusconi's Mediaset in terms of revenue.
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