Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has proposed new media rules would forbid the sale of pay-per-view pornography and other adult programming during daylight hours, a measure that would hurt revenue at News Corp.'s Sky Italia.
Rupert Murdoch's Italian satellite unit is the country's largest pay-television service and has five pay-per-view channels with adult content during the day and 22 at night. Sky Italia had 45 million euros ($63 million) in sales from porn
programming, half of all pay-per-view revenue, according to a report in October in L'Espresso magazine.
Berlusconi is the country's biggest media owner and controls Mediaset, the largest private TV broadcaster and a Sky Italia competitor.
This rule goes against personal freedom, Marco Crispino, chief executive officer of pay-per-view sports and porn broadcaster Conto TV, said in an interview. The Cascina, Italy-based company's porn channel is going rather well, but if
they block transmission it would hurt us economically. We made investments, bought broadcast rights, Crispino said.
Undersecretary of Communications Paolo Romani promised to change the regulations, Luca Barbareschi, a lawmaker in Berlusconi's People of Liberty party, said late yesterday in an interview: They need to be changed because they are a folly, Barbareschi, who is also a film star, said.
We can't make rules that favor just one person, he said, referring to Berlusconi.
The regulations would lower the number of advertising minutes per hour allowed on pay-TV channels to 12 from 18 by 2012, while Mediaset's free-to-air broadcast channels will be able to increase advertising minutes to 12 from 6 per hour. That
would also limit revenue at Sky Italia.
Update: Media regulator criticises censorship bill
An Italian government decree seeking to regulate video content on television and the Internet drew criticism from the head of Italy's telecommunications regulator, media reports said.
The new regulations, set for approval on February 5, would require satellite TV channels to obscure pornographic content during daytime and may require websites hosting video to seek a licence from the communication ministry.
The pre-emptive authorisation (of web video) ends up being a bureaucratic filter, said Corrado Calabro, head of the telecommunications authority.
The new rules have already incensed opposition and telecoms industry figures.
Former communications minister Paolo Gentiloni, an opposition politician, called it a real scandal, peppered with gifts to Mediaset , the television group owned by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, by hobbling suppliers of
alternative entertainment at a time when Mediaset's audiences are shrinking.
Google, owner of YouTube, has expressed concern over the decree, saying it amounts to censorship and would subject the video-sharing website to the same responsibilities as a television network newscast.
We're barely into the new decade and already reading about freedom issues in Italy is like scanning a long war bulletin. The situation was poor 20 years ago, but it has worsened since Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's entrance in politics. In
the last six months it has taken the steepest downhill path one could imagine. In the 80s and '90s Berlusconi's television channels represented editorial innovation and business success. But in the last 10 years Italian's appetite for the
Berlusconi style of programming has waned.
No doubt prompted by the economic success of Murdoch's Sky Italia satellite platform, Berlusconi has begun using his government to pass laws that damage Sky TV to the sole advantage of the bottom line of his TV media empire. He is passing laws to
protect his privacy, while at the same time classifying as top secret information about illegal wiretaps on intellectual and political leaders of the opposition. Nevertheless, during his recent visit to Israel, Berlusconi accused the Italian
press of orchestrating the harshest ever media campaign against a prime minister.
In a law which took effect last week, movies and shows forbidden to under 14s will be banned on any TV platform up to 10.30 pm, even if it's pay per view. This is a clear blow to Murdoch's Sky, as they have just launched a series of pay-per-view
24/7 porn channels. Looking through this legislation I realised something funny: while movies like Grease are to banned, live shows with almost naked girls will still be legally broadcasted. In fact this law was always in place, it has just been
extended to the new satellite platform, but as an Italian I had never noticed its impact, as I am pretty used to seeing semi-erotic dances on most of Italian channels, at any time of the day. Indeed, Berlusconi made his fortune on
"immoral" TV. As an anonymous commenter wrote on the site of Republica, if this law was to be respected, we would need to shut down all of Berlusconi's television stations from 7am to 10.30 pm.