Local TV stations confront the impact of frequency reallocation

Shortly after the official announcement issued in eight regions instructing them to obtain new digital frequencies, some local TV stations in Italy had no choice but to pull down the curtain on their operations. The situation arose as a result of the reorganisation of broadcast TV following the sale of frequencies Ch 61 to 79 UHF to mobile operators.

The ‘Committee of Local Radio and TVs’, through its president, Giacomo Bucchi, confirms it will promote a Class Action to request compensation of a billion from the State for the manner of the transition to DVB-T, which led to the closure of dozens of TV broadcasters and the loss of thousands of jobs in the industry.

Bucchi declared: “They auctioned our frequencies to mobile operators earning 3 billion Euro and, as if that was not enough, at the last moment they have also taken another frequency (UHF 35). So they left dozens of stations without an adequate transmission channel while there are still free channels ready for a new tender dedicated to national broadcasters.

A law that has labelled the operation “of national interest” may be considered to have deprived TV broadcasters of their most basic right of defence.

Looking back, the Minister of Economic Development, Corrado Passera, made a commitment to carry out the auction of TV frequencies by 2012 or before the end of his mandate. Even today, however, the auction meets new obstacles – both inherited and previously underestimated. Complicating the issue are protests by two foreign countries, Croatia and Malta. In the first case, when the Ministry granted RAI the digital frequencies to serve the Adriatic regions, the signal invaded the territory of Croatia. RAI is protesting the inadequacy of the frequencies in front of a regional tribunal, TAR.

In its application, Viale Mazzini (RAI) calls for new frequencies that do not interfere with broadcasters in neighbouring countries, asking to be taken from those to be auctioned.

In the second case, when Mediaset and Telecom Italy obtained frequencies to launch digital terrestrial television in Sicily, they allegedly affected the signal of Malta, who protested both in Italy and internationally. Mediaset and Telecom are prepared to take the trouble out of the Maltese area but ask for clean frequencies in return.

Bucchi surmises: “The Ministry does not appear likely to meet the demands. Many [observers] think it seems they do not want to affect the wealth of channels that must go [forwards] to the auction.”

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