The European Commission has accepted plans for Sky Italia to bid for digital terrestrial capacity, but on the pre-condition that it is restricted to free-to-air broadcasts until 2015.
It means the News Corp-owned operation will be able to participate in the “beauty contest” being held by the regulator AGCom to allocate digital spectrum to new market entrants.
Tom Mockridge, Chief Executive Officer of Sky Italia commented: “We are obviously very happy with today’s decision. The Commission has confirmed the Italian TV market has undergone significant changes in the last few years, driven also by Sky Italia’s constant commitment to bringing new competition, innovation and choice to a market historically dominated by two incumbents. If Sky Italia is successful in its DTT bid, the Italian consumer stands to gain once again, as do potential advertisers.”
The Commission has agreed to waive the section of the obligations signed between News Corporation and Brussels in 2003 that restricted Sky Italia from owning DTT infrastructure until 2012. Sky had been lobbying to have the restrictions lifted since 2009, against opposition from Mediaset and RAI.
“We believe that the conditions established by the Commission in 2003, which prevented Sky from entering the digital terrestrial TV until 2012 on account of its dominant position in the pay-TV market, remain entirely valid,” Mediaset said in a statement on Tuesday.
However, the Commission argued that the market had expanded through the entrance of Mediaset and Telecom Italia. According to the Commission, the AGCom offering represented “a unique opportunity” for Sky to enter the marketplace.