Italy limits advertising on Sky-Italia

Prime Minister accused of helping Sky rival, Mediaset

ROME -- The Italian government passed a decree on Monday that will limit the amount of advertising that can appear on satellite broadcaster Sky-Italia, in a move that will no doubt have a significant impact on the company's bottom line.

Officially, the decree limits ad sales for all satellite broadcasters, but it will only have an impact on Sky-Italia because the company is the only satellite company to surpass the new advertising cap.

The plan was blasted by opposition lawmakers, which accused the government of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi of taking steps to help Mediaset, the broadcast giant Berlusconi controls and Sky-Italia's biggest rival.

The decree caps ad time at 12% of total airtime, a reduction from the current limit of 18% of total airtime. Sky-Italia is the only Italian satellite broadcaster to have reached the 18% limit. All of the company's satellite rivals -- including Mediaset's satellite subsidiary Mediaset Premium Gallery -- all have advertising levels well below the 12% cap.

In a statement, Paolo Romani, Italy's Minister of Communications and the author of the decree, said the change was made to protect the best interests of viewers, who will now have more content to enjoy.

A spokesman for Sky did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment.