RAI must open free-to-air channels to all viewers
July 13, 2012 08.35 Europe/London By Julian Clover

An Italian administrative court has ruled that RAI is in breach of its public service charter by encrypting its free-to-air channels.

Sky Italia 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.

By encrypting its signals RAI has been able to prevent Sky from including the public channel’s satellite services, instead Sky has used a dongle that plugs into the back of its receiver to pull in the channels over DTT.
The RAI channels and those of Mediaset were only available on satellite to those with a card for their Tivusat service. The court said it the procedure amounted to state aid for Tivusat.

“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,” said Andrea Zappia, CEO, Sky Italia.

“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 license fee”.

The TAR found the AGCOM decision to be unlawful because as a public service broadcaster its programmes should be available to all.