4.2.6 Media pluralism and content diversity
Notwithstanding the adoption, since the 1980s, of an Antitrust Law concerning the press (Law 416/1981), followed by two other Laws - 223/1990 and 249/1997 - concerning both radio television and the press, subsequently modified by Law 112/2004 (for a more detailed description of antitrust legislation see chapter 5.3.7), the high degree of mass media concentration in Italy appears to have been and to be unparalleled in Europe.
As Italy was the first country in our continent to have broken the monopoly of the national broadcasting corporation in 1976, during the following years the Italian television system gradually took the shape of a substantial duopoly, dominated by three public networks (RAI) – which draw their resources both from license fees and advertising – and three private ones (Mediaset), financed through advertising. These six – out of seven – national networks, which coexist with hundreds of local TV stations, jointly accounted for more than 90% of the audience share for a long time (and were still around 74% in 2010). The adoption of Law 112/2004 on Television (the so-called "Gasparri Law": see chapter 5.3.7), practically endorsing the existing duopoly – with the then Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, being in control of both public and private national networks (as the private owner of Mediaset) – and of Law 215/2004 on the regulation of conflicts of interest – which forbids the Prime Minister and other officials' direct involvement in the management of corporations, albeit allowing them not to give up ownership – has caused much controversy.
Duopoly in the broadcasting system has subsequently been matched by monopoly in Pay TV in 2003 when the two companies – Stream and Telepiù – were bought by Rupert Murdoch's rapidly developing satellite Pay TV Sky Italia (reaching in 2011 as much as 5 million subscribers). 2008 was actually the first year in which Sky earnings, benefiting from the significant increase in Pay TV income, came second after RAI, surpassing Mediaset. In 2011, though, the primacy in earnings has again been for Mediaset (3 242 million EUR), which significantly increased its advertising income at the expense of RAI (3 046 EUR), which saw its advertising income decline. Sky (2 873 EUR) came third, mainly due to stagnation in subscriptions.
It is no wonder that, in the last years, Italy witnessed growing competition between Mediaset and Sky: the latter having been quite heavily affected by government measures including, under alias, in 2008, an increase in TVA (from 12% to 20%) and, at the end of 2009, a decrease in the maximum ceiling for advertising on Pay TV channels, lowered from 18% to 12% by 2012. The implementation of DTT (see chapter 4.2.3) and its technicalities (decoders, etc.) has also become part of this battleground.
On the positive side of the present, fierce competition among national networks for access to more and more financial resources, it can be said that content diversity has improved greatly thanks to the satellite channels, and even more so in 2011, thanks to the transformation process of our TV system into a Digital Terrestrial TV system bringing about myriads of new channels, presently underway and nearly completed (see chapter 4.2.11).
Concentration appears to be less appalling but quite noteworthy also for the publishing industry, considering that the publishing of newspapers and periodicals is mainly in the hands of an industrial oligopoly, and that the largest publishing company of books and periodicals in the country, Mondadori – as well as Einaudi, Electa, etc. – belongs, like Mediaset, to Fininvest, the holding owned by Italy's previous Prime Minister.
Nevertheless, nowadays the threat to pluralism and diversity of expressions in the publishing industry, in Italy like in other countries, does not come only from concentration, but from "market failure" as well: that is by the exhaustion of its funding sources, due to the sharp fall in income from sales brought about by the financial crisis (see chapter 4.2.3 and chapter 5.3.7), coupled by the growing competition of the Internet.
As for the share of domestic vs. foreign media programmes, Italy is heavily dependent on imports, although official data on this phenomenon are not available.