Mediaset fails in decoder appeal
11.21 Europe/London, August 1, 2011 By Julian Clover

Mediaset has failed in its attempt to overturn last year’s judgment on subsidies given by the Italian authorities to promote digital TV.

Last year, the General Court of the European Union threw out an appeal from Mediaset that the subsidies should be recovered.

In 2004, the Italian government decided to give a subsidy of €150 for every buyer or renter of a DVB-T receiver. In 2005, the aid was refinanced, and the subsidy was reduced to €70. The spending limit of the subsidy for each year was €110 million.

Following complaints filed by satellite broadcasters (including Centro Europa 7 Srl and Sky Italia Srl), the Commission initiated a formal investigation procedure and, in 2007, found that the subsidy constituted State aid to digital terrestrial broadcasters offering pay-TV services – in particular, pay-per-view services – and digital cable pay-TV operators.

The Court said the question as to whether broadcasters would necessarily have financed the acquisition of digital decoders in the absence of the subsidies, on which Mediaset based several of its arguments, was irrelevant. “The Commission is always obliged to order the recovery of aid which it declares to be incompatible with the common market, unless such recovery would be contrary to a general principle of EU law”.

Mediaset was ordered to pay its costs as well as those of the European Commission and Sky.