Court rules Italy DTT rollout broke EU rules

The Court of Justice of the European Union has issued two rulings in which it states that the switchover from analogue to digital TV in Italy was based on resolutions and laws contrary to EU law. Also, the frequency redistribution system in Italy has been criticised because it is at risk of being incompatible with Community law.

One case concerns the request by companies Europa Way and Persidera for the cancellation of the tender for the allocation of the digital dividend. In the other case, Persidera challenged the decision by which it was assigned a single digital frequency (multiplex) in exchange for two analogue ones.

The two cases were brought to the attention of the Court of Justice of the EU by the Council of State, which, in view of the importance of the issues at stake and the economic consequences of the decisions of the judges, asked the Court to issue preliminary rulings.

In its ruling on the first case brought by Persidera (a DTT network operator owned by Telecom Italia Media Broadcasting and Rete A, an Espresso Group company), the Court stated that “Italian law on the allocation of new frequencies is contrary to EU law”.

It also called on national courts to assess whether existing operators – RAI and Mediaset – have been assigned a number of frequencies beyond what is strictly necessary for the continuity of their channels.

In its second ruling, the Court noted that the criterion of conversion from analogue to digital “has in fact disadvantaged Persidera” and is therefore “objectively discriminatory”. However, it also noted that “such discrimination may be justified if it constitutes the only possible way to pursue legitimate objectives of general interest”, a condition which is for the Italian courts to verify.

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