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Brussels, 18th July 2007

Competition: Commission formally requests Italy to comply with EU rules on electronic communications

The European Commission has sent a formal request to Italy to bring its broadcasting legislation in line with the EU Regulatory Framework for Electronic Communications. The request takes the form of a reasoned opinion, the second stage of the infringement procedure under Article 226 of the EC Treaty. The Commission considers that the Italian legislation regulating the switchover from analogue to digital terrestrial TV places unjustified restrictions on the provision of broadcasting transmission services and attributes unjustified advantages to existing analogue operators. The current situation in analogue TV, where only few operators are able to compete on the market for broadcasting transmission services, risks being reproduced in digital terrestrial TV, thus maintaining the reduced choice for Italian consumers. The Commission sent a letter of formal notice in July 2006 (see IP/06/1019). If Italy does not take the necessary measures to comply with the reasoned opinion within two months of receipt, the Commission may decide to refer Italy to the European Court of Justice.

Following a complaint from the Italian consumers' association Altroconsumo, the Commission sent Italy a letter of formal notice on 19 July 2006 seeking information about the Italian legislation regulating the passage (switchover) from analogue to digital terrestrial broadcasting technology. In particular, the Commission was concerned that the Italian legislation in question could infringe EU Directives 2002/21/EC (Framework Directive), 2002/20/EC (Authorisation Directive) and 2002/77/EC (Competition Directive) insofar as it could raise barriers to entry for newcomers on the market for digital TV broadcasting transmission services, thus strengthening the position held by existing broadcasting operators in Italy.

The Commission has now concluded that the current Italian legislation might preclude operators who are not active in analogue transmissions from experimenting with digital transmissions and from creating their own digital networks. Furthermore, the law would allow existing broadcasters to acquire more frequencies for digital experimentation than they need to simulcast their programmes in analogue and digital and maintain control over the frequencies and networks for analogue transmissions even after the switch-off. This would deprive their competitors of the digital dividend deriving from the enhanced capacity of digital networks. The digital switchover will enhance the potential for the release of a large amount of spectrum for wholly new broadcasting services ranging from additional TV programs in traditional broadcasting to mobile broadcasting, terrestrial HDTV or interactive TV.

Following the letter of formal notice, the Italian authorities drafted a law aiming, inter alia, at modifying the existing broadcasting legislation. The draft law is currently under discussion before the Italian Parliament but has still not been adopted.

Almost a year after the letter of formal notice, Italy has therefore still not notified any concrete measures to remedy the Commission's concerns.

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