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European Court clarifies rules on Italian TV ad rates

In an case originally brought by Sky Italia, the European Court of Justice has said it is permissible for national legislators to set different advertising rules for pay TV and free-to-air services.

The ECJ said it was permissible provided that the ad rules are “proportionate” and it has returned the matter to the Tribunale Administrativo Regionale (TAR) of Lazio.

The Luxembourg-based court said that it was up to the TAR to decide if advertising restrictions placed on pay TV operators in Italy constituted a proportionate measure with the intention of protecting consumers or was designed to favour Mediaset, the media group owned by the family of former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Sky Italia was fined by regulator AGCOM in 2011 for exceeding the ceiling imposed on advertising airtime for satellite broadcasters and appealed to the TAR on the basis that the ceiling set on free-to-air broadcasters was higher and that the law was discriminatory in favour of Mediaset.

The TAR subsequently referred the matter to the European Court.

The advertising law in its current form places an advertising airtime limit of 12% on pay TV operators, including Mediaset Premium.