Television

Italian parliament passes TV modernisation bill

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ROME: The lower house of the Italian parliament passed a fiercely contested bill intended to modernise television and create more choice on the Italian airwaves.

A New York Times (NYT) report also states that the opposition criticised the move as prime minister Silvio Berlusconi owns the country's largest private television network and indirectly controls 92 per cent of Italy's public broadcasting channels. However, the opposition gathered votes to amend the bill and limit its scope, it says.

The NYT report states that the bill proposed to quicken the country's path to digital television; overturned a law ready to go into effect at the end of the year banning ownership of more than two non cable television channels; and eased restrictions on crossover media acquisitions. The owners of television networks, like the prime minister, could have bought newspapers and raised ceilings on advertising revenues.

The detractors passed an amendment that extracts the bill's teeth and ensured that it would impose the limit of two on the number of channels any company may own and would block the other changes. So instead of potentially broadening his Mediaset television empire, Berlusconi may be forced to unload one of his three private channels, says the NYT report.

Conflict-of-interest accusations have hounded "tycoon prime minister" Berlusconi since he took office in 2001. Mediaset's competitor is RAI and it is not percived to be much of a threat.

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