Mockridge calls for end to Italian TV restrictions
By Julian Clover
Published: September 21, 2010 09.47 Europe/London

The war of words between Sky Italia and Mediaset has erupted again after Sky Italia CEO Tom Mockridge called for an early removal of the 2003 legislation preventing Sky from entering the terrestrial television market.

In a letter to the Italian daily Corriere della Sera, Mockridge said most of the new frequencies made available by the country’s analogue switch-off should go to new entrants, possibly including foreign companies, which have both financial resources and ideas. He said the allocation of frequencies should be determined by independence, objectivity and transparency.

“In the field of pay TV, Mediaset operates without any limitation, while Sky is subject to a long list of regulatory restrictions (if Sky get better results is because consumers are free to choose our product in preference to that of Mediaset Premium),” he said.

The restrictions imposed on the Italian market had reduced freedom of choice and resulted in less jobs in the sector than the European norm.

Mockridge called for an end to legislation that he believed was designed to hinder Sky’s progress in the market, such as restrictions in the sale of advertising. He also said the link between Mediaset, RAI and the audience research body Auditel should be broken so that new entrants could rely on the available data.

Mediaset Chairman Fedele Confalonieri responded robustly, saying: “We won’t take lessons in competition from a member of the world’s most dominant media groups.”

In June, the European Commission has accepted plans for Sky Italia to bid for digital terrestrial capacity, but on the pre-condition that it is restricted to free-to-air broadcasts until 2015.