Court rules against RAI encrypting FTA channels for Sky Italia

Editor | 13-07-2012

An Italian administrative court in Rome has ruled that state broadcaster RAI is violating its public service charter by encrypting its free to air (FTA) channels so as to deny Sky Italia the ability to carry the RAI channels.

The satellite provider had filed a suit with the TAR administrative court challenging a 2009 decision by the Italian communications regulator AGCOM that permitted RAI to encrypt some programming.

When RAI began encrypting its FTA broadcasts, Sky Italia launched its Digital Key DVB-T decoder that plugs into the USB port on its decoders and which incorporates all free DTT channels into Sky’s program guide. RAI’s decision otherwise obliged Sky subscribers to purchase a separate decoder for Tivusat, the free satellite platform owned jointly by RAI, Mediaset and Telecom Italia.

In its ruling, TAR ruled AGCOM’s original decision as unlawful, stating that public service programming must be “universally accessible via all technology platforms”. This was found to be especially the case regarding transition from analogue to digital broadcasting. Moreover the judgement also considered the promotion of Tivusat through AGCOM’s initial decision as effectively “state aid” to Tivusat’s shareholders.

Commenting on the judgement, Sky Italia CEO Andrea Zappia said: “The ruling of the Regional Administrative Court of Lazio is a victory for all Sky subscribers and represents an important reminder that RAI must comply with its public service obligations towards all Italian citizens. With this ruling, the Regional Administrative Court reaffirmed a principle of justice and a principle of non-discrimination towards Sky subscribers who, over the last years, have unfortunately seen some programs being blacked out on their Sky decoders – as recently happened again on the occasion of the European Football Championship – even though they pay RAI’s licence fee”.