Silvio Berlusconiís broadcasting group Mediaset will start to encrypt its satellite DTH channels beginning September 7.

Until now, the groupís general entertainment channels Italia 1, Rete 4 and Canale Cinque are broadcast free-to-air over the Eutelsat Hot Bord position.

The move is believed to be related to the issue of carriage fees. Being FTA channels, all current Sky Italia subscribers are able to view the Berlusconi channels. Follwoing a decision on carriage payments, Mediaset is now seeking payment of retransmission fees from Sky Italia for including its channels on the Sky EPG.

Mediasetís request is strengthened by a resolution by the countryís communications regulator AGCOM made last April at the request of RAI. As a result of this ruling, the public broadcaster is looking to receiving retransmission fees from the various distribution platforms. Mediaset is following this route and also asking payments from its main competitor, Sky Italia.

Viewers in Italy can continue to see these Mediaset channels, as well as additional channels from the group, Iris, La5, Top Crime, Italia 2 and Extra, with a TiVu Sat receiver and smartcard, no subscription needed.

The free-to-view satellite platform currently offers a total of 68 Italian and international TV channels, including all the RAI and Mediaset channels, as well as 32 national and international radio stations. Some 2.4 million households currently hold a smartcard,