Agcom eyes RAI, Mediaset frequency


ROME -- Italy's communications regulator, Agcom, on Thursday recommended that state broadcaster RAI and rival Mediaset be required to make some of their frequencies available to smaller broadcasters and potential startups.

Though the statement from Agcom is not binding, it does carry a great deal of weight with lawmakers, who could vote to require the country's two largest broadcasters to make the move.

According to information from Agcom, RAI and Mediaset each control about 40% of the country's traditional analog frequencies -- a much greater percentage of the bandwidth than they need. That stranglehold makes it difficult for new companies to enter the market or for smaller broadcasters to acquire rights to the frequencies they need in order to grow.

Agcom called the situation "substantial and problematic" and recommended that the companies be required to free up unused frequencies. The terms of that move have yet to be decided.

Italy already is looking to migrate analog signals to digital networks starting in 2012, and possibly earlier, according to a parliamentary report released Wednesday. That move would also free up analog frequencies currently in use by RAI and Mediaset. But the Agcom statement makes it clear that the regulator wants to introduce greater competition in the sector before the switch to digital frequencies takes place.

It is not clear when parliament will debate the measure.

With three of the seven national networks each, RAI and Mediaset dominate Italian television, combining to own more than 90% of total viewer hours and of the total national television advertising buy.

Mediaset is controlled by media mogul and former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.