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The Regulation of the Media in Italy

Overview

The Autorità per le garanzie nelle comunicazioni - Italian regulatory authority in the communications sector - (AGCOM), was established by Law n. 249/1997 (hereinafter "Act"), to carry out the tasks assigned under EU - European Union - directives, both in the field of the telecommunications market and of audiovisual de-regulation. It is thus called, in Europe, "the single regulator" or "the convergence regulator". AGCOM started its operational activities at the end of July 1998. The NRA has an approach which is supportive of competition and encourages players to invest in the country. The NRA has absorbed the functions of the former Authority on Publishing and Press, and as a consequence is also responsible for regulatory affairs in those sectors, with broad responsibilities in supervising and enforcing compliance with legislation in the telecommunications, media and press-publishing sectors. The internal organisation of the NRA is based on the convergence of these related sectors, and its departments and services are therefore integrated to cover both audio-visual and telecommunications. The NRA’s operating expenditure is covered by a 0.35 per thousand levy on revenues of national operators (except new entrants operating for less than two years) in the sectors under its responsibility (telecommunications, TV, press and publishing).

The functions of AGCOM are dealt with by the Council (Consiglio) and by two Commissions: one deals non-exclusively with issues related to infrastructures and networks (Commissione per le infrastrutture e le reti), the other deals (mostly, but not exclusively) with products and services matters (Commissione per i servizi e i prodotti).

More precisely:

The Council:

  • advises the Government about strategies and policies on communications matters;
  • develops studies and researches on technology issues;
  • ascertains the existence of dominant positions in the broadcasting sector;
  • gives advisory opinions in proceedings pending by the Italian competition authority;
  • prepares the annual report to the Parliament on the activities of AGCOM.

The Commission for the Infrastructures and Networks:

  • advises the Ministry of Communications on frequency matters;
  • develops the national frequency allocation plan;
  • defines transparent criteria for interconnection pricing;
  • provides dispute resolution on interconnection matters;
  • ensures that telecommunications services are provided to meet all reasonable demands;
  • determines non discriminatory criteria for the national numbering plan.

 

 

The Commission for Services and Products:

  • monitors compliance with regulations and policies;
  • adopts guidelines on the quality of services and on standards;
  • monitors the daily distribution of programming and advertising;
  • monitors the compliance with regulations on protection of minors;
  • ensures the right of reply;
  • ensures the application of regulations concerning advertising and political pluralism.

In order to build an effective regulatory framework focused on the principles of pluralism, quality content, respect for linguistic and cultural diversity, protection of minors, fostering of European audiovisual production and digital convergence, AGCOM has taken measures such as the following:

 

Equal access and political pluralism

Following Law n.28 of February 22nd, 2000, AGCOM has issued new provisions (Determination n.29 of March 2, 2000) in order to ensure the principles expressed by the law: the equal treatment and equal access to media of all parties.

The main rule provides for granting equal access to programs on radio and television broadcasting containing political opinions, such as party political broadcasts, debates, round tables etc. and other programs where the expression of political views appears to be relevant to all political parties involved in the elections (as well as those involved in the popular referendum). According to article 2, the transmission of such programs is compulsory for the public service (RAI) and for private national concessionaires transmitting free on air. Detailed provisions establish the criteria relating to the presence (on screen or on radio) of political subjects (i.e. proportionate to the degree of representation of the political party), the duration of political advertisements, and the transmission of news.

AGCOM has applied these rules for the first time during the campaign for the administrative election held on April 16, 2000 and then again for the referendum of May 21, 2000.


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