Italy mulls Vivendi restrictions

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Italy may bring measures to stop France’s Vivendi strengthening its position in the country’s media and telecoms sectors, according to Reuters. Vivendi is biggest investor in Telecom Italia, with a 24 per cent stake. It also holds 29 per cent of Mediaset, the country’s largest commercial broadcaster.

Reuters says the government has drafted a law that would require Italy’s communications watchdog to investigate companies that operate – both directly or through other entities – in the telecoms and media sectors. The watchdog would probe whether the companies are in a position to harm media plurality by looking at total revenue, entry barriers and the level of competition in those markets, the document shows.

The move is in response to a ruling in September by the European Union’s top court. It decided an Italian law setting market share thresholds to prevent excessive power concentration in telecoms and media was against EU rules. That ruling boosted Vivendi’s in its long-running dispute with Mediaset, the broadcaster 44 per cent owned by former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

The verdict could help Vivendi to regain voting rights for its full Mediaset stake, which had been partly frozen because of the Italian law that was challenged by the EU court. The fact the EU ruling could  allow Vivendi to increase its Mediaset stake has prompted the government to consider a wider overhaul of laws protecting media plurality.

The government aims to pass the interim measure before the court session on December 16th which is scheduled to hear Vivendi’s request to scrap restrictions on its Mediaset voting rights.


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