This article originally appeared in
May 01, 2006
Italy PM: More biz funding
By ERIC J. LYMAN
ROME -- Incoming Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi said in an interview that he will
ask Italy's antitrust authority to rule on the fate of the country's television media sector
and that funding for culture-related activities — including spending for films — will rise
under his administration.
Prodi said that culture-related spending in Italy plummeted under the government of
outgoing Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, something that will change when he takes
over, probably around the middle of this month.
Prodi declined to detail the extent to which culture spending would rise or how much
of it would be earmarked for spending on attracting films and on the Cinecitta film
studios. In addition to film, culture spending includes funding for museums, galleries,
classical music, opera and jazz performances.
"Spending in this area has gone down like this in recent years," Prodi said, making a
downward gesture with his hand. "That has to improve. These are some of the things
Italy is known for."
Government officials said last week that funding for Cinecitta would be reduced to
€19 million ($23.2 million) this year, compared with €25 million last year.
Italy's television sector is dominated by Mediaset, the three-network company
controlled by Berlusconi, and by state broadcaster RAI, which also owns three
Combined, the two companies provide about 93% of the country's viewer hours.
Mediaset alone accounts for 55% of viewer hours and 66% of television ad revenue.
Prodi said that could change. Although he stopped short of confirming that a
previously reported plan to strip Mediaset and RAI of one network was in the works,
he said antitrust regulators will have the final say on the fate of the sector.
"I have always said that in order to have a democracy you must have competition, and
the Italian television sector is for all intents and purposes a duopoly, and it's practically
a monopoly in terms of advertising," Prodi said. "That cannot stand, though it will not
be up to me how it is remedied."
The former European Commission president also said that new technologies should
play a greater role in fostering competition.
"As these new technologies are perfected, they should open the door for new
players, but instead they are used to consolidate the positions of the two major
incumbents," Prodi said. "There is something wrong with that."
Prodi said his planned moves were not aimed at striking at the business interests of
Berlusconi, his chief political rival.
"This is not a vendetta, it is about what is best for the television sector," Prodi said.