Funding of Public Service Broadcasting in the Digital Era: (5) - Italy:
Media Reform Bill's Effect on Public Service Broadcasting

January 2005

In May 2004, a new media legislation that dramatically reforms the existing broadcasting law, the Radio-Television System Reform Bill, was implemented in Italy. The bill clearly defines the role of the public broadcaster RAI (Radio Audizioni Italiane), reshuffles RAI's board of governors, and aims to accelerate the dissemination of digital broadcasting in Italy. But the controversial bill's approval of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's media domination sparked debate.

Italy's terrestrial television has maintained a peculiar bipolarity since the 90's. Six channels (three commercial TV stations run by Berlusconi's media company Mediaset and three channels run by RAI whose board is stacked with members friendly with the ruling party and Berlusconi) dominate 90 percent of viewership share. Similarly, Mediaset and RAI's advertising agencies run an oligopoly of the television advertising market. The head of state's control of domestic media through various means has been harshly criticized by opposition parties and international journalist organizations.

Deliberation of the new media reform bill started in 2002 to end the oligopoly and provide a smooth transition to digital broadcasting. But the proposed bill greatly loosened the restrictions to be put on media centralization and rather strengthened restrictions on RAI. Opposition parties strongly opposed the bill and stagnated deliberations, claiming it would further encourage bipolarization and further benefit Berlusconi.

Part five of this series brings an overview of Italy's broadcasting industry and the political influences, provides a summary of the new media bill and its passage, and lists the problems facing RAI.

Yoko KOWATA, NHK BCRI Media and Management Research
The NHK Monthly Report on Broadcast Research