Italy plans to scrap TV license fee

Part of a wider effort to reduce Italians' tax bills

ROME -- The Italian government indicated Thursday that it is studying a plan that would eliminate or "significantly reduce" the so-called "canone" -- the television license fee that helps support state broadcaster RAI.

The news, reported in Thursday's editions of Rome daily Il Messaggero and then posted on the government's communications Web site, is part of a wider effort to reduce the tax burden on Italian families. Under the current rules, families pay 99 euros ($154) per year for their first television set and a reduced fee for subsequent sets.

But the change would deprive RAI of a major source of revenue at a time when it is battling satellite broadcaster Sky-Italia and Mediaset, the private sector broadcaster controlled by Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

The previous government, which collapsed in January, looked to expand the "canone" by charging partial fees for such devices as phones or computers capable of broadcasting RAI content.

But the Berlusconi-led government is mulling a change that would either reduce the fee substantially or eliminate it all together. A decision is expected by the end of the summer.