Italian regulators investigate football rights

Italian antitrust officials are set to probe into the competition-related aspects of a new law that dictates how Italian football television coverage is shared.

The investigation is the latest in a series of moves against the controversial law, which was passed in January, just before the collapse of the Italian government led by Romano Prodi. The aim of the law was to provide a fairer distribution of income among football clubs in order to lessen the advantage that big-city teams have over rivals from smaller urban areas. But critics of the law said it smacks of government intervention.

Chief among the critics is Sky-Italia, which filed a complaint with the European Union charging that the new law’s introduction of collective bargaining rights on football broadcasts beginning with the 2010-11 season gave an unfair advantage to Silvio Berlusconi-controlled broadcaster Mediaset.

Sky-Italia outbid Mediaset to own the lion’s share of football broadcast rights. The company believes that the new law will give Mediaset another chance to regain some of the rights it lost. Italy’s football broadcast market is estimated to be worth more than $1 billion.

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