Italian State Broadcaster RAI May Privatize One of its Channels

Selling off one of the RAI networks would raise much-needed cash for the debt-ridden Italian government.


ROME – Italy’s top competition official has said he would support a plan to privatize one of the three national television networks owned by troubled state broadcaster RAI, but that it would be better to make such a move when market conditions are stronger.

Antitrust chief Antonio Catricala, who also serves as undersecretary of the Council of Ministers in the temporary technocrat government headed by former European Competition Commissioner Mario Monti, said selling off one of the RAI networks would raise much-needed cash for the debt-ridden Italian government, while reducing government exposure to the volatile and expensive sector, increasing competition among a larger number of private commercial broadcasters, and would allow the government to dedicate the two remaining RAI networks exclusively to cultural and public service content.

Catricala's comments, which were made Monday, were released by his office Wednesday.

RAI has been struggling economically for years, and its situation has worsened in recent months as the austerity measures from the Monti government have reduced government support for the company and forced dramatic cutbacks including the closure of RAI’s long-time New York offices.

RAI is considering various strategies to remain solvent, including expanding obligations for payment of the “canone” fee used to support the broadcaster to include personal computers, tablet computers, MP4 players, and smart phones.

Italy has seven free-to-air national networks: three owned by RAI; three from broadcast giant Mediaset, which is controlled by former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi; and Telecom Italia Media subsidiary La Tre.

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