Mediaset investigated by TV watchdog

Possible market domination under scrutiny

ROME -- Italian broadcasting giant Mediaset is under investigation from the Agcom regulator for exceeding its quota for the number of program titles it can own, but the broadcaster said it would seek to have the current law changed.

Agcom will seek to determine whether Mediaset's position in the television market is dominant enough to have an impact on competition.

Agcom could require Mediaset to sell some of the program titles it owns after it was revealed that Mediaset owned 33% of the titles owned in the Italian television sector. Italy's Gasparri law prohibits any single broadcaster from owning more than 20%.

But Mediaset says the law is unfair because it uses an arbitrary standard to determine a dominant position in the market.

Mediaset contends that by excluding Mediaset Premium -- the broadcaster's satellite broadcast subsidiary, a separate company -- the figure drops to 28%. It also said that it was unfair to limit the number of titles a company can own without monitoring the number of hours of programming or whether or not the programs are being aired.

The company, which is controlled by Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, says it will seek to have the Gasparri law (which was passed while Berlusconi rival Romano Prodi was prime minister two years ago) changed.