Sky-Italia complains against TV monitoring co

Auditel alleged to be misrepresenting market share

ROME -- Italian satellite broadcaster Sky-Italia has filed a complaint with Italian antitrust officials, charging that rival Mediaset has been pressuring television monitoring company Auditel to "misrepresent" Sky-Italia's market share.

Antitrust officials said on Tuesday they would open a probe into the charges. The investigation will be completed within 180 days, officials said.

The complaint is the latest salvo between Sky-Italia (a News Corp. subsidiary controlled by Rupert Murdoch) and Mediaset (which is controlled by Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi).

Last week, Sky-Italia announced that it would launch a free national terrestrial television channel that would compete with Mediaset in that sector. Until now, Sky-Italia's programming has been limited to satellite channels. Earlier in the year, Mediaset complained that Sky-Italia had set up obstacles to Mediaset content on its satellite networks.

The complaint to the antitrust regulator accused Mediaset of "obstructing and delaying" Sky proposals to "improve the accuracy of data obtained" during Auditel's surveys to measure television market share. Sky-Italia said that existing data under-represents Sky-Italia's market share.

"This information has a critical role in the strategic and commercial choices companies make in the advertising market," Sky-Italia said in its complaint, which also alleged that Auditel took its steps under pressure from Mediaset, which did not comment on the topic when contacted.