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 4.2.6), the high degree of mass media concentration in Italy is probably 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. The adoption of Law 112/2004 on Television (the so-called”Gasparri Law“: see chapter 4.2.6), practically endorsing the existing duopoly – with the 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 a near monopoly in Pay TV since 2003, when the two companies – Stream and Telepiù – were bought by Rupert Murdoch’s rapidly developing satellite Pay TV Sky Italia (reaching 4.6 million subscribers in 2013). 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. Since 2012, though, Pay TV being less affected by the economic downturn than advertising, Sky reached primacy in earnings, and maintained its lead in 2014 (2.6 million EUR), followed by Mediaset surpassing RAI, which ranked only in third place.
It should also be noted that Sky’s primacy was reached notwithstanding growing competitive pressure exercised in the past years by Mediaset, by obtaining from a friendly government the adoption of measures penalising Pay TV with an increase in VAT (from 12% to 20%) in 2008, and a decrease in the maximum ceiling for advertising in 2009.
On the positive side of the fierce competition among national networks for access to financial resources, it can be said that content diversity has improved greatly thanks to the satellite channels, and even more so since 2012, thanks to the transformation of our TV system into a Digital Terrestrial TV system bringing about myriads of new channels (see chapter 2.4).
Concentration is noteworthy – and presently on the rise – also in the publishing industry. The publishing of newspapers and periodicals has long been mainly in the hands of an industrial oligopoly, where the largest publishing company of books and periodicals in the country, Mondadori – as well as Einaudi, Electa, etc. – belongs, like Mediaset, to Fininvest: thus realising an extraordinary, transversal media concentration. But things are presently even getting worse, as at the end of 2015 the second largest publishing house in the country, Rizzoli – badly affected by the economic crisis – has been sold to Mondadori, thus giving way to the giant publishing house Mondazzoli! No wonder if a group of famous writers and intellectuals previously affiliated with Bompiani–Rizzoli – led by Umberto Eco shortly before his death – reacted to such a situation by leaving their old home in order to bravely create a new, small but independent publishing house: La nave di Teseo…
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, including the sharp fall in income from sales and from advertising brought about by the financial crisis (see chapter 3.5.1 and chapter 4.2.6), coupled by the growing competition of the Internet.