Television

Italy relaxes media rules; critics cry foul

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MUMBAI: Italy's parliament has cleared a controversial media law that was earlier vetoed by president Carlo Azeglio Ciampi. Having undergone some minor alterations, the law was passed by the parliament on Thursday. Under Italian law, Ciampi cannot veto them again.

The new law will see prime minister Silvio Berlusconi's firm Mediaset taking over 90 percent of Italy's television broadcasts, and gives him freedom to acquire more newspapers and radio stations.

The long-in-the-works rules raise the cap on broadcast advertising and ease limits on how many stations each TV player can own. Besides putting a 20% cap on the total share of the media market revenue that a single company can hold -- instead of a 30% cap placed solely on TV revenue -- the new law will allow cross-ownership of webs and newspapers in 2010 and optimistically sees Italy shifting to terrestrial digital TV by 2006, say media reports.

The law also authorises a partial privatisation of pubcaster RAI starting next year. Critics suggest that the law will give Berlusconi an undue advantage that will see him dominating the country's media.

Berlusconi's $7.8 billion family holding firm Fininvest also owns Medusa Film, Mondadori publishing group and the Jumpy Internet portal.

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