Media Landscapes

Italy

Written by Elisa Giomi

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Located in the south of Europe on the Mediterranean Sea, Italy is a founding member of the European Union. The country is about 300,000 sq km with a population of 60 million inhabitants, according to the latest census. Its GDP is higher than the average of the 27 EU countries but growth has been slow in recent years.

Italy has a parliamentary republic, with a Chamber of Deputies and a Senate. It is divided into 21 regions, five of them with autonomous power. Its official language is Italian, although minority languages have an official status as well, particularly in some communities near the Alps.

From 2001 to 2006, media tycoon Silvio Berlusconi was simultaneously the Prime Minister of Italy and the owner of Mediaset, which controls the three most important commercial TV networks. Berlusconi’s governing centre-right coalition was defeated at the general elections of April, 2006. Romano Prodi's centre-left cabinet, sworn in during May, proposed a law to put some restrictions on media ownership; Berlusconi’s government had passed a 2004 law to protect Mediaset’s interests. Prodi’s attempt was ineffective, as his cabinet had a short life. Silvio Berlusconi's coalition won the general elections of April, 2008.

In Italy, newspaper readership remains low compared to most of EU countries. Readership has not varied substantially over the last decade. There are about 150 paid-for dailies, both national and local/regional. Publishing trusts own the most important newspapers. The written press market has been particularly impacted by the overall decrease of advertising revenues in recent years. In Italy, the advertising market is historically dominated by TV, while the written press commands only a third of it. This accounts for the long-term weakness of the daily press. According to UPA, the association of advertisers, in 2008 the written press' share of the advertising market remained 30.7 percent of the global advertising market. Television took a 48.5 percent share of the advertising market, enjoying a 1.6 percent increase since 2007.

The Italian print newspaper market can be divided into four main segments: paid-for national dailies; paid-for local and regional dailies; free dailies distributed in some cities; magazines.

Among the most important national paid-for newspapers: L'Avvenire, Il Corriere della Sera, Il Giornale, Italia Oggi, Libero, Il Manifesto, Il Messaggero, La Repubblica, Il Sole 24 ore, La Stampa and L'Unità. Between May, 2008, and April, 2009, their average combined total sales were 2.032m. Although national paid-for dailies still maintain important revenues thanks to product distribution (books, etc.), they seem not able to increase their circulation: on the contrary, over the last five years, combined sales of the 11 main dailies has slightly decreased (in the period between May, 2003, and April, 2004, the group sold an average of 2.210m copies per day).

Il Corriere della sera (average daily sales in 2008 and 2009 were 522,202) and La Repubblica (average daily sales: 467,116) have always competed for the top spot, outpacing competitors in terms of paid-for circulation. While Il Corriere della sera still is a broadsheet, La Repubblica adopted since the beginning the so-called “Berliner” format, a larger-than-usual tabloid. They both also publish their own weekly magazines.

There are 48 local newspapers officially monitored by ADS, the association which certifies the circulation of paid-for written press. Their total sales over the last five years, decreased as well: there were 1.93m copies sold daily in 2003 and 2004 but 1.73m sold daily in 2008 and 2009.

Freesheets are a rather recent development within the Italian press market. In Milan, Rome and some other cities, readers can find: Metro, which launched in 2000 in Italy; Leggo, born in 2001; City, from 2001; Dnews, which began in 2008; and E-Polis, a chain of free local newspapers launched between 2004 and 2009 by maverick publisher Nicky Grauso. Each version of E-Polis takes the name of the city where it is produced, like Il Firenze in Florence. In 2009, the market share for free dailies was estimated at more than 40 percent, but quantifying free dailies' actual circulation is difficult. It is s calculated differently from paid-for newspapers and based on distributed copies. The free press is not included in ADS monitoring.

According to their publishers, the five free dailies together distributed more than 4m copies per day in 2009: Leggo was the most widespread, with 1m copies per day; City boasted 800,000 copies; Metro 730,000 copies; E-Polis circulated 590,000 copies; and DNews 650,000 copies. These are important results if we consider that the circulation of the most widely circulated paid-for newspapers, Il Corriere della sera and La Repubblica, distributed 749,000 and 667,000 copies per day in the period between May, 2008, and April, 2009. Nevertheless, the free press is undergoing a difficult stage in Italy, due to a crowded market (five free dailies may be too many in a country where newspapers readership remains very low) and the overall scarcity of advertising revenues.

The periodical publications market includes 199 papers, of which 136 are monthly magazines and 63 are weekly magazines. In 2008 and 2009, combined sales of this sector were 20.5m copies. The total sales of weekly magazines was 10.56m; monthly periodicals sold 9.94m copies. In recent years this sector has shown a drop in profits: in 2004, its total sales were 24.773m. Weekly magazines show little change; the sector typically sold 1m more copies than in 2009, around 11.882m. Monthly magazines sold 12.891m copies. In 2004 there were 44 more magazines publishing in than in 2009.

Italy does not have tabloid daily newspapers. The mot popular dailies are the sport papers like La Gazzetta dello Sport, whose sales on Mondays exceeds those of all newspapers but Il Corriere della sera and La Repubblica (411,166 copies).

The Italian newspaper market is characterised by fragmented ownership. The L'Espresso group stands out as the most important group; it owns La Repubblica, three magazines – including L'Espresso, an important left-wing political magazine – and 15 local paid-for newspapers, some of which are among the most widespread dailies (as they are distributed in several regions).

The RCS Media Group owns Il Corriere della sera, La Gazzetta dello Sport, the free newspaper City and two magazines. The Caltagirone Editore group owns the national newspaper Il Messaggero and four local paid-for newspapers, among them the free newspaper Leggo.
The Mondadori group, controlled by Silvio Berlusconi's family, is among the most important book publishers in Italy. It owns 40 magazines, some of which are very popular; among them is Panorama, a widespread right-wing political magazine.

Radio has shown no signs of stagnation: in 2008, it reached 73 percent of the Italian population aged more than 11 years old. Advertising revenues have been unstable: in 2007, they were 10.6 percent more than in the first seven months of 2006, reaching for the first time a 5 percent share of the global advertising market. This positive trend continued until 2008, when radio's market share became 5.9 percent (an increase of 4.2 percent compared to the end of 2007). The first six months of 2009, compared to the same period in 2008, registered a decrease of 17.5 percent. 

Two public station lead Italian radio: the divisions of RAI, Radio Uno (news, public affairs, culture) and Radio Due (news, culture, music, entertainment ). In the first six months of 2009, Radio Uno and Radio Due were first and third in terms of most listened-to stations, with 6.214m and 3.87m listeners, respectively, on an average day.

RAI also owns Radio Tre, a talk radio station with a good selection of classical music and information about theatre, movies, books, etc. Radio Tre is a niche channel that has maintained its audience's loyalty over the years (1.86m listeners on an average day).

The larger share of the audience belongs to private networks. Among these, the clear leader is RTL (5.2m listeners on the average day in the first six months of 2009), followed by RDS-Radio Dimensione Suono (5.1m listeners) and Radio Deejay (5m listeners). The latter belongs to L’Espresso group. All these are music stations; each has over the years built followings among young people.

Other stations have followed Radio Tre in adopting the “talk radio” format, with culture, news and public affairs. These include Radio 24, specialised in economic and business information. It is owned by the Il Sole-24 ore group and has 1.9m listener. Radio Capital, a part of the L’Espresso group, also has a talk format. It has approximately 1.4m listeners. In addition to these networks, there are a bevy of local radio stations on the FM frequency.

Italians can choose from eight free national TV channels: Rai Uno, Rai Due, Rai Tre (owned by the public broadcasting company RAI), Rete 4, Canale 5, Italia 1 (which belongs to the private network Mediaset, owned by Berlusconi), La 7 and MTV Italia. Additionally, there are about 800 local TV channels. In some Italian regions, Digital Terrestrial Television channels can be received. Both RAI and Mediaset offer paid-for as well as free channels on DTD.

RAI started broadcasting in 1954 and quickly became popular. Although affiliated with the Italian government’s main political party, the Christian Democrats, the station has been the stomping grounds of many left-leaning intellectuals. Alumni include authors Umberto Eco and Andrea Camilleri, journalists Furio Colombo and Enzo Biagi. Privately-owned, commercial television was made possible in Italy in 1976 when Corte Costituzionale, Italy's supreme court, issued a judgment allowing private radio and TV channels to broadcast “within local ambit.” Without a law specifying what the “local ambit” was, private radio and television stations flourished; in 1978 there were already 400. The first broadcasting regulation was approved in 1990, Legge Mammì. 

Since the ’80s, after the transition to a free market, the Italian TV system became a “duopoly” with RAI and Mediaset gathering 90 percent of the audience. The three Mediaset (at that time called Fininvest) channels were launched between 1978 and 1982. In 1984 the advertising revenues of Mediaset  were already greater than those of RAI. Berlusconi was extremely skilful in amassing large audiences to lure advertising contracts to his company. 
Mediaset's channels tilt toward entertainment and advertising. They owe their popularity to TV series and films imported from the US, to Japanese cartoons and to telenovelas imported from South America and Mexico. At least in the beginning, RAI displayed a more cautious attitude toward foreign imports, as it had to combine a need to maximise audience ratings with the necessity to construct a national brand image separate from that of Mediaset, its main competitor. Over the years RAI has modified  its offers in order to keep up with its competitors. Today, RAI seems to find it more and more difficult to characterise itself as a public broadcasting company: its offerings, in terms of genre composition, are similar to Mediaset programming with a large number of reality shows, quiz shows, both foreign and Italian TV series and TV movies, talk shows and infotainment programmes.

Initially, Mediaset channels did not offer news broadcasts: the first one started in 1991, on Canale 5 (Tg5), after Legge Mammì stated that commercial TV channels too should offer news. Today, the evening news broadcasts on Mediaset channels (Tg5, Tg4 and Studio Aperto) are competitive with public television news programmes. Why did it take a while for Mediaset to schedule news bulletins? The reasons relate to another important difference between RAI and Mediaset during the first 10 years of duopoly (since the launch of Mediaset channels to the mid-90s), that is, their attitude toward politics.
News, politics and, more in general, the representation of Italian public life, had a large space on RAI schedules. On the contrary, Mediaset channels were more attune to the values of the private sphere: addressing controversial issues from politics, news and current affairs was likely to jeopardise the network’s goal of gathering the largest audience possible. It can be said that RAI addressed citizens, whereas Mediaset tried to talk to consumers. Its model spectator was the “ordinary Joe,” believed to be far from the public sphere, apolitical and interested in the representation of everyday problems, family life, and consumption (these were thematic preoccupations that Mediaset’s large offer of US serials, sitcoms and soap operas particularly matched).

Mediaset TV lost its “apolitical” nature in 1994 when its owner, Silvio Berlusconi, decided to run in the general elections. The very start of Berlusconi’s political carrier exemplifies his conflict of interests; this remains a hot issue in Italian public life: Berlusconi announced the founding of Forza Italia, his party, on a pre-recorded video-message that was simultaneously and integrally broadcast by the three Mediaset channels (other TV channels, too, showed parts of it).
The creation of Forza Italiaitself largely drew on the resources and the personnel of Fininvest group, and on its relationships to the business world. Funds for the new party came from Publitalia, the group’s advertising division. This division had also functioned as an important interface with the economic world, drawing on hundreds of big and small Italian enterprisers to invest in advertising on Mediaset channels. Also, many of Berlusconi’s MPs were former Publitalia executives. Further, during the 1994 election campaign, popular singers, actors and actresses, anchormen and showmen working on Mediaset channels openly declared their support for Forza Italia.

After Berlusconi’s coalition won the 2001 general elections, RAI was again under the control of a government led by the owner of Mediaset, the state television’s main competitor. This time the government control was even stronger than in 1994. Meanwhile, RAI shares previously owned by IRI state holding company (99.5 percent) had passed to a new company, Rai Holding, entirely owned by the Treasury. Interestingly, this change was deliberated by the previous, left-wing government. This is a clear demonstration of what some say is the major problem plaguing Italy’s media landscape: political parties have always exhibited an intense desire to put communication system under the control of politics.

In short, after 2001, Berlusconi’s power over the Italian TV system, paradoxically incremented by left-wing policies, became practically absolute, as demonstrated in the so-called “Bulgarian edict.” From a press conference in Sofia, Berlusconi accused the veteran and largely appreciated commentator Enzo Biagi, the talk show host Michele Santoro and the irreverent comedian Daniele Luttazzi – all of them among his most outspoken critics – of making "criminal use" of RAI. He suggested they be banned from working on state television. The RAI Directorate followed Berlusconi’s suggestion, suspending the three programmes disliked by the prime minister. Biagi and Luttazzi’s contracts were not renewed. Biagi and Santoro were reintegrated four years later; Luttazzi was not given any chance to work on TV anymore. 

Over the last 10 years, the effects of Berlusconi’s long-running conflict of interest on media pluralism have appeared particularly evident in several occasions, among them the creation of Legge Gasparri, TV legislation approved in 2004 and designed to favour the Prime Minister’s interests in this sector (see section 6.1).
The Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters Without Borders in 2009 placed Italy at No. 49. It is undeniable that the Italian information sphere is experiencing a systematic exclusion of certain stories from the main TV news bulletins. With the exception of TG3, Italian jouranlism tends to under-cover the recession and its effects. There is little reporting about political scandals, presidential gossip and gaffes, or trials involving Berlusconi. His coalition, on the other hand, claims that the case for the lack of press freedom in Italy is a “farce” created by their political opponents, left-wing intellectuals, journalists, and magistrates, in order to hound Berlusconi out of politics.

In October, 2009, the National Federation of the Press organised a rally in favour of freedom of the press. The event was a protest of regulations to control journalists, and against government interferences within the media. According to the organisers, 300,000 people took part in the demonstration. But a majority of TV news bulletins said the crowds numbered around 60,000.
Pay TV in Italy was introduced by two organisations: Telepiù, born in 1990 and owned by Canal Plus-Vivendi group, and Stream, launched in 1997 and formerly owned by Telecom Italia and Rupert Murdoch. In 2003, their merger resulted in Sky Italia. Telecom Italia sold its part, leaving Murdoch as the only owner. In 2009, Sky reached 4.7m viewers per day. According to Auditel, its market share was 9 percent (more than four times the share that Sky had prior to of the merger). Supported by a strong position in the rich market of football matches, Sky has a monopolistic position within the satellite TV groups in Italy: in the first six months of 2009, the total share obtained by its channels was 3.15 percent (FOX: 1.68 percent, Disney: 0.80 percent, Turner: 0.42 percent, Discovery: 0.28 percent and Viacom: 0.27 percent).

Until about 2002, RAI and Mediaset controlled 90 percent of the Italian audience. Today the two control less than 80 percent. Competition with Pay TV is increasingly strong, as reflected in the distribution of advertising shares. In 2008 Pay TV enjoyed a 12 percent increase in its market share while RAI lost 3.6 percent and Mediaset 0.3 percent.
Nevertheless, in terms of income, RAI remains the leading media company in Italy with 2.7m euro. Sky Italia is in second with 2.6m and RTI-Mediaset is third with 2.5m euro.
RTI-Mediaset is the leading company within the advertising market. It is gaining footing in the Pay TV sector as well (revenue from the paid-for channels that Mediaset offers on DTD increased from 125m euro in 2007 to 199m in 2008). 

Despite increasing interest in Pay TV, audience shares are still concentrated among national free channels. On the first six months of 2009, the ranking of the 15 most popular TV channels was as follows: Rai Uno (share: 21.7 percent); Canale 5 (21.31 percent); Italia 1 (10.39 percent); Rai Due (9.22 percent); Rai Tre (9.00 percent); Rete 4 (7.96 percent); La 7 (2.98 percent); Boing, a free DTT channel for children, owned by Mediaset (0.52 percent); 7 Gold, a syndication broadcast almost nationally (0.43 percent); Sky Sport 1 (0.40 percent); Fox Crime/HD, owned by Sky (0.36 percent); Disney Channel, owned by Sky (0.32 percent); Sky Cinema 1, also owned by Sky (0.25 percent); Rai 4, a free DTT channel owned by RAI (0.24 percent); FOX/HD, which is operated by Sky as well (0.23 percent).

In the 1940s and ’50s, Italian cinema was dominated by neorealism. The ’60s saw the Italian movie industry in its golden age.

But since the mid-1970s, Italian cinema has been on the wane. As in other European countries, the diffusion of television and of home video in the ’80s greatly contributed to the crisis of cinema in Italy. The social and cultural background of that period must be taken into consideration as well: at the beginning of the 1980s, once the huge mobilisations and demonstrations of the 1970s were over and terrorism started to shock the public, there was a gradual withdraw to the safe, protected space of a private and domestic life made more pleasurable by the diversified cultural and media consumptions available.

This shift in entertainment habits and lifestyle resulted in the desertion of cinema theatres. The number of films screenings dwindled. In 1968, Italian cinema reached its peak with 450 films produced and screened. In the early 1970s, there were between 350 and 450. In 1993 – the worst year ever – there were around 50: that, is 17 percent of all films screened in Italian cinemas (70 percent were US films).

In the mid-90s, the Italian movie industry started to recover, both in terms of box-office takings and in terms of number of films produced. The number of cinemas, which had also declined since the 1970s, was gradually compensated by an increase of multiplexes and cinemas with more than one screen. There were 20 multiplexes in 2000 and 83 in 2004, with 850 screens (almost half of all screens).

Starting in 2001, Italian movie revenues started to grow, from 17-20 percent to 30 percent in 2006 and 2007. In 2007 Italian cinema set a new record: 103.5m spectators and 617m euro at the box office. The figures, the best in 10 years in terms of spectators and revenue, showed a renewed popularity of national cinema. In 2008, there were 123 national productions and 31 international co-productions, for a total of 154 movies: the highest numbers in a decade. The findings about admissions (99.4m) and revenues (617m euro), further confirmed the positive trend.

Since 2000, Italy has produced 1,076 films, an average of 120 new titles a year. In terms of genres, melodrama is preferred: 48.4 percent of the films produced in Italy in 2008 were melodramas. About 33 percent are comedy, 11 percent documentary, 3.9 percent thrillers, 2.6 percent animation, 1.9 percent noir.

Eighty-two out of the 123 Italian movies produced in 2008 were realised with private funds, 41 with public funds. Private investors provide 78.5 percent of private funds for Italian cinema. Public funding mostly come from the Italian state through a specific ministry (Ministero per i Beni e le Attività Culturali). In 2009, new tax concessions were passed in order to prompt investments for the production of new Italian films: a tax credit and tax shelter.

Main funders, besides the state, include TV networks RAI and Mediaset: RAI invests part of its licence fee and Mediaset invests 10 percent of advertising revenues in the production of Italian and European films.

Both RAI and Mediaset produce TV movies. In 2008 these covered 11.9 percent of broadcasting time on the national TV channels (19.9 percent on Canale 5; 13.7 percent on Rai Uno; 13.5 percent on Rai Due; 11,8 percent on Rete 4; 3,7 percent on La7). The 150 external movie producers working for RAI and Mediaset craft about 39 percent of these movies.

As to the distribution of films in the Italian market, the greatest part is still played by the US, which provided 35 percent of the movies distributed in 2008 for 60 percent of the total income. Italian movies accounted for 25.5 percent of all movies distributed and obtained less than 30 percent of the total income. Other foreign productions covered the remaining 30 percent (23 percent of the films distributed came from other European countries and obtained around 11 percent of the total income; 7 percent came from the rest of the world and obtained 1 to 2 percent of the income).

As in other European countries, the major roles within the Italian movie industry are played by a selected number of groups, among which US actors stand out.

The 2007 ranking, by income, of the first 10 groups operating in the national movie market:  RAI Group (473m euro); The Walt Disney Co. (314m euro); Mediaset Group (255m euro); Warner Bros. Entertainment (252m euro); Paramount Motion (159m euro); Thomson H. Italy (154m euro); Kodak Italia (112m euro);  The News Corp. (97m euro); Quinta Comm. Italia (82m euro); Sony Italia (72m euro); Odeon & Cinemas Uci (72m euro).

The process of liberalisation in the telecommunication sector in Italy started in 1992 when two of the public companies that provided telephone services were privatised. In 1994, Telecom Italia was created out of several mergers. In 1997 this 'telecommunication giant' (it was the sixth-largest telephone company in the world) was privatised. In 1999, Telecom Italia was taken over by the Olivetti group. From 2001 to 2007, control was in the hands of Pirelli, led by financier Marco Tronchetti Provera; in 2007 Pirelli sold its share to Telco, a company created by Italian and Spanish groups. Today Telco controls 23.50 percent of Telecom Italia.
Over the years, Telecom Italia’s market share has decreased, dropping from 78 percent in 2005 to 66 percent in 2008, thanks to an increasing number of competing operators. Residential, long-distance and mobile telephone services are offered by several operators which all offer Internet access, too.

In addition to Telecom Italia, service providers include: Vodafone (formerly Infostrada), Wind (owned by Egyptian financier Naguib Sawiris), Fastweb, BT Italia (formerly Albacom, owned by British Telecom), Tele2 (Swedish group Tele2 AB), Tiscali (owned by the Italian industrialist and left-wing politician, Renato Soru), La 3 Italia (owned by the Chinese multinational Hutchison Whampoa Limited).

Mobile phones have an exceptional penetration in the Italian market; owners of mobile phones outnumber citizens with house phones. Italians elected the mobile phone as their favourite media many years ago, almost taking over from Finland the world record. In 2009, 88.9 percent of Italian people between 11 and 74 years old (42 million people) owned a mobile phone.

UMTS was introduced in Italy in 2001. The operator that invested in it most heavily was La 3 Italy. Since 2004, La 3 Italy has also provided  TV content receivable via streaming on the mobile phone. Neither video nor TV on the mobile phone have a large following; growth in these areas remains slow. 

Mobile phones are not yet widely used to access the Internet either: according to Audiweb, connection via mobile phone, smart phone or PDA was available for 2.969 million people (6.2 percent of the Italian population) in 2009. Owners of a mobile phone with Internet connection are mostly men (8.3 percent of men between 11 and 74 years old) between the ages of 18 and 34.

Italians have been slow to embrace the Internet, although 61.3 percent of the population, about 30 million people, between 11 and 74 years old say they have access to the Internet from any place (home, office, school, etc.) and by any means. About 10 million people say they have an Internet connection at home (that is, 47.9 percent of households that include at least one member younger than 74 years old) as of 2009.

According to recent data gathered by Audiweb about the use of Internet in Italy in July, 2009: In that month, 30.783m users accessed the Internet. There were 21,689 active users that month. Time spent on the web per person was 98 minutes; the number of pages visited was 179.

According to the report by AgCOm-Autorità per le Garanzie nelle Comunicazioni (Italy’s main regulatory authority, see Section 6.3), broadband penetration in Italy is still low compared to other European countries. In March, 2009, 41 percent of Italian household had broadband Internet access. A strong difference among regions remains; in Lombardia and Lazio, 45 percent of households are connected through broadband whereas in some southern Italian regions less than 30 percent of households are connected. The differences in the diffusion of new communication services among Italian households can be attributed to socioeconomic factors but also to an overall low level of media literacy. According to an Audiweb survey: 59.4 percent of those who have never tried the web indicate an inability to use the PC as a main limiting factor.

The most visited websites in 2009: Msn.it, 4.9m unique users a day; Virgilio.it, 2.4m unique views; Libero.it, 2.3m visitors; Yahoo.it with 2m; La Repubblica.it: 931,000 unique visitors; Tiscali.it, a search engine and web portal with 681,000 unique visitors; and La Gazzetta dello Sport.it with 529,000.

In 2008 the Internet's market share of advertising revenue for the first time overtook radio: 6.3 percent of the global advertising market versus 5.9 percent. This positive trend continued into the first months of 2009 as well. By the end of the year, online advertising is expected to increase by 10.5 percent. This bucks the trend seen in more advanced European markets, where the growth of the sector slowed in the first six months of 2009).

Many newspapers started web versions in the mid-90s; today all Italian newspapers have digital versions. Nevertheless, only the websites of La Repubblica and La Gazzetta dello sport were among the most-visited websites in 2009.

So far newspaper publishers have failed to grasp the opportunities opened by ICT. The digital versions of most newspapers often look like mere 'transpositions' of their paper versions and lack real value in terms of content, services offered and aesthetics. This is a as a missed opportunity in a country where traditional newspapers are bought by little more than half of the population, and where circulation of dailies among young people – who are heavy Internet users – is lower than in other European countries. 

Online-only newspapers have been so far barely successful. To the contrary, some blogs - like Il Blog di Beppe Grillo, run by former TV entertainer Beppe Grillo – are enormously successful.

A pillar of Law No. 112/2004 was support for Digital Terrestrial Television; the switchoff is due by 2012. An initial experiment was held in 2008 in Sardinia and Valle d'Aosta, the only two regions which are today already “all digital.” In 2009, other regions went digital: Western Piemonte, Trentino, Alto Adige, Lazio and Campania. Most areas went through the switchover, that is, the digitalisation of two channels, Rai Due and Rete 4. In those areas, Rai Due and Rete 4 can only be received via DTT.

Berlusconi’s cabinet promoted the introduction of decoders that allow old TV sets to receive digital broadcasting, offering 250m euro in subsidies to families buying the decoders. According to Auditel, in August, 2009, the number of Italian families provided with a DTT set-top box (external or integrated with the TV) doubled from the year before, to 35 percent of all households (8.5m households).

So far, there is a modest amount of digital broadcasting. RAI offers a few free DTD channels: Rai 4 (movies and TV series for young and adults), Rai Sport Più, Rai Storia (Italian and international history and culture), Rai Gulp (an interactive channel for children and teenagers), Rai News24 (a news channel). Mediaset has its own channels: Boing (extremely popular among children), Iris (offering movies, sitcoms, series and theatre pieces), Mediashopping (a home-shopping channel).

The Italian leader in this field is ANSA, a cooperative among Italian newspapers born in 1946. It used to be important in Latin America, but in recent years has lost its status as a medium-size world news agency. Smaller outlets include Radiocor, which specialises in economic news; Adn-Kronos; and ASCA.
ANSA constantly loses money, even as it tries to enter the business of providing contents to various media, from free press to mobile phones; it is heavily subsidised by the government .

The most relevant professional organisations in Italy are the Italian Newspapers Publishers' Association (FIEG-Federazione Italiana Editori Giornali) and the Federation of Television Broadcasters, both powerful lobbies. There is also UPA-Utenti Pubblicità Associati, Federazione Nazionale Stampa Italiana (FNSI) is a large journalists' union.

Journalists must be members of a professional corporation (ODG – Ordine Dei Giornalisti), established in 1963. Journalists are admitted after verifying employment as a fulltime employee in a newspaper, radio or TV outlet, and after an admission examination.

In the 1980s and 1990s, Italy's media landscape was shaped by a number of laws and Corte Costituzionale (Italy’s supreme court) decisions which reflect a discontinuous approach, partisan considerations and private interests. There has never been a bipartisan plan to shape the Italian electronic media vis-à-vis the challenges of globalisation. This present state of uncertainty and fogginess in the media landscape can be attributed to: turbulence in the political system, lack of transparent government programmes, a strong lobbying effort by major operators, and general short-sightedness of the Italian political parties.

Law No. 249/1997 reformed the audiovisual and telecommunications system, creating a broadcasting frequencies blueprint. It divided broadcasting frequencies between three public channels (RAI1, RAI2, RAI3) and eight national commercial networks, including the most important three ones: Canale 5, Italia 1, Rete 4, all by Mediaset. About 800 small to medium-size independent private local television stations were also included.
The current regulation is Law No.112/2004, also known as “Legge Gasparri” (for Maurizio Gasparri, Communication Minister under Silvio Berlusconi's government). The process leading to the creation of this law started in 2002, after Silvio Berlusconi's coalition won the general elections of 2001: Berlujsconi’s conflict of interests then became a hot issue again and preoccupations over media concentration and press freedom flared up again among his political opponents and among wide sections of Italian public opinion as well.

In 2002, Carlo Azelio Ciampi, then Republic President, sent an official message to the Chamber of Deputies and Senatus, prompting them to devise a law that implemented both  European Union's directives and Corte Costituzionale's guidelines on the subject of information pluralism and impartiality. The law was also expected to structurally reform the Italian broadcasting system in order to solve the historic Italian problem of terrestrial frequency scarcity, to safeguard TV public service and to regulate the transition to DTD.  

In September, 2002, Berlusconi's Government passed the first version of Legge Gasparri. During  the discussion of it, Mr. Berlusconi left the chamber, as if to deny the very existence of a conflict of interests. The law was widely criticised and judged unconstitutional by then Republic President, Carlo Azelio Ciampi. Before eventually approving the law, Ciampi sent it back to the Chamber of Deputies and Senate for revision; also, the European Commission activated an infringement case (procedura di infrazione) No. 2005/2006) against Italy because the legal system according to which the law distributed frequencies was seen to give unwarranted advantages to existing operators of analogue TV and to prevent the formation of a pluralistic and free TV market.

Among its most important and controversial points, the law established a deadline for the transition to DTD in 2006, early in comparison to all other European countries. Fixing such a short-term deadline - a deadline unlikely to be respected, given the long time needed for the construction of digital terrestrial networks - was meant to avoid a change at Silvio Berlusconi's Rete 4  from analogue transmission to satellite transmission. Rete 4 exceeded the antitrust limit because, a judgment by Corte Costituzionale said in 1994, it was unconstitutional for one subject to own three TV terrestrial channels. The antitrust limit in Italy is calculated on the basis of the total number of national TV channels broadcast on terrestrial frequencies (there were previously eight DTD channels).

The Digital Terrestrial Technology allowed an increase  in the number of TV national channels transmitting on a terrestrial frequency:  as a consequence, owning three of them was no loner to be considered “dominant position.” In other terms, according to Gasparri's line of thinking, by 2006, DTD would make it possible to “dilute” Mediaset's dominant position within the Italian TV system; this is how Legge Gasparri aimed to speed up the switch-off deadline.

Further, the law defined the SIC (Integrated Communication System) to include written press, online newspapers and magazines, radio, television, movie, advertising and sponsorships. The definition of SIC was meant to lower down the antitrust limit to advertising revenues: the Legge Gasparri stated that this limit  – fixed at 20 percent (corresponding to 26m euro) – should be calculated on the basis of SIC, That encompassed revenues from many and very heterogeneous communication media. As a consequence, the antitrust limits decreased in comparison to previous limits, which were apparently higher (30 percent), but actually corresponded to a lesser amount 12m euro. 

After some minor revisions to the law – including a decree law devised in order to temporarily avoid the switch of Rete 4 to satellite - it was definitively approved in 2004.  In response to the European Commission violation proceedings, the transition of the whole country to DTD was planned for 2008 and likely will be completed before the 2012 deadline.

The Ordine dei giornalisti claims to be an ethical watchdog over its members, but it has been particularly inefficient in this activity. Periodically, scandals created by reporters’ conflicts of interest surface: in 2006, some RAI journalists were named as accomplices in a sport furore over manipulation of referees at Juventus football club. More headlines were created by cooperation between the deputy editor of Libero, Renato Farina, and the Italian intelligence community in a dubious operation of political skulduggering against the then-opposition leader Romano Prodi.

Law No. 249/1997 created an independent authority to look over the communications sector, AgCom (Autorità per le Garanzie nelle Comunicazioni). This is a collegial body with a president (appointed by the government), a council of eight members (elected by parliament) and two committees (one for networks and infrastructures, another for services and products). This authority extends its control over the telecommunications sector, the electronic media and the publishing industry.

Its political origins, however, made AgCom a rather timid and ineffectual regulator. It holds important control over the telephone market, but it has shown little capacity to effectively regulate the TV system.

There is a parliamentary board to supervise RAI, too. It was introduced in 1975 as a political authority comprised of 41 MPs from all parties. This body only has jurisdiction over the activity of the public broadcasting company, RAI, but it was given the important role of electing its president by the 2004 law.

Since the 1990s, many universities have started to offer degrees in journalism, both at undergraduate and graduate level. Only 16 schools, though, allow access to the Ordine dei Giornalisti, including Master Biennale della Scuola di Giornalismo dell'Università degli Studi di Milano, Master Biennale in Giornalismo "Giorgio Lago" Università di Padova or Master Biennale di Giornalismo dell'Università Suor Orsola Benincasa di Napoli.

Some schools specialise in radio and TV journalism, such as Centro Italiano di Studi Superiori per la Formazione e l’Aggiornamento in Giornalismo Radiotelevisivo in Perugia (RAI's school of journalism) and Master Biennale in Giornalismo a Stampa, Radiotelevisivo e Multimediale at the Università Cattolica

Figures and statistics about TV audiences can be found on Auditel’s website, which is a Joint Industry Committee created by advertisers and broadcasters. Equivalent sources about written press, radio and the Internet are Audipress, Audiradio and Audiweb. Analysis of the movie industry and figures about cinema audience are provided by Anica-Associazione Nazionale Industrie Cinematografiche, Audiovisive e Multimediali (a national association of movie, audiovisual and multimedia industries). Information about the legal framework of the communication sector can be found at the Internet site of AgCom, the Authority for Communications.

There are a number of trade publications. A comprehensive one is the annual report L'industria della Comunicazione in Italia (The Communication Industry in Italy), published by the Institute of Media Economy, Fondazione Rosselli, in Milan. About the written press, a useful report is Il grande Libro della stampa italiana, published by Prima Comunicazione, a monthly trade magazine. On its website, Prima Online, detailed documents, analysis, statistics and figures about all the media sectors can also be found. 
Censis (Centro Studi Investimenti Sociali), a socioeconomic research institute, as part of its annual report on Italian society conducts an annual survey of media use called Communication and Media, with a representative sample of the Italian population.

Finally, each broadcasting and publishing organisation have their annual report.

Traditional TV consistantly maintains its centrality within Italian media consumption patterns. According to Censis, in 2007 television was regularly (at least  three times per week) viewed by 86 percent of all Italian people, more than in other European countries but France (91 percent). Also, only 29 percent Italian people believed national TV to be “old and useless.” 

The alternatives to traditional television – DTD and satellite TV (either free or paid-for), TV on mobile phone, web TV, etc. –   have not fully developed their potential, yet: the offer of DTD national free channels is still quite poor; satellite TV – where the leader operator is Sky Italy –  is often used to watch traditional and free Mediaset and RAI channels while paid-for TV channels offered by Sky and by other satellite groups are still at the bottom of the ranking in terms of audience. TV on the mobile has not a great penetration in Italy; its future will depend on the ability of content providers to devise products compatible with the technological and cultural form of devices in the hands of an increasing mobile audience. It is likely that in the future mobile TV offers will be enhanced; in any case, they are already  competitive with traditional TV: in 2007, satellite TV was regularly watched by 21 percent of Italian people. DTD – in the few regions where it was already available – was regularly watched by 8 percent of Italians.

The economy of traditional TV in Italy, like in other European countries, is impacted by several problems: while national free channels have maintained audience loyalty over the years, their core target is represented by the elderly. Youth increasingly prefer other media and entertainment forms; free content distributed on different platforms is becoming increasingly competitive with traditional TV offerings, whose resources are stagnant: advertising is migrating to other media. The income that RAI and Mediaset make from licence fees and/or advertising is growing far more slowly than the income Pay TV obtains from subscription fees. In the future, traditional TV is probably destined to loose audience, also because its top-down and pedagogic model is already incompatible with the media consumption habits of an audience in a multimedia environment, enriched with increasingly customised content and forms of interactive communication based on a 'pull' technology.
It is not an accident that traditional TV have lost the most audience among young people: in 2003, 95 percent of the Italian youth were used to regularly watching TV but in 2007 the share dropped at 88 percent.  At the same time satellite TV audience shares greatly increased, growing from 25 percent of the youth in 2003 to 37 percent in 2007. Interestingly, this increment in the consumption of alternative TV coincided with that of the Internet: in 2003, 40 percent  of Italian people aged 14 to 29 were regular Internet users; in 2007, there were 74 percent.

Another interesting trend concerns the level of truth in Italian media. In 2008, for 78 percent of Italian citizens, TV – both paid-for and traditional – represented the leading medium in the formation of public opinion during electoral campaigns. Yet 82 percent of Italians believe news offerings on traditional TV channels are influenced by political power (Spain shows a similar result: 83 percent. In France, 70 percent of the citizens have the same opinion, in UK its 50 percent, in Germany 40 percent.).  In general, TV is the medium that Italian people trust least: only 35 percent believe it to be trustworthy (the average value in Europe is 53 percent). Press is trusted by 36 percent of citizens (44 percent on average in Europe); radio is the most appreciated medium (42 percent of Italians, 61 percent on average in Europe).

Strong ties between Italian media ownership and economic and political powers accounts for much of the Italian people's scepticism toward their media. This trend is probably like to continue, because DTD and paid-for TV news offers, as well as Italian press online, do not yet seem to represent a real and more pluralistic alternative to traditional media, yet.   
Consequences of the economic crisis are difficult to foresee. Radio, which like other media sectors in 2008 and 2009 was affected by declining advertising, nevertheless appears to be maintaining if not increasing its popularity with the audience: its ownership is more diversified and competitive than that of TV. In the future, the availability of more frequencies made possible by digital terrestrial technology will further expand radio offers.

It is already evident that publishing is the most impacted area. Both daily and periodical publications show a drop in profit, thanks to declining advertising and newspapers sales. According to AgCom, electronic publishing is doing better, but it accounts for just 4 percent of the sector's global revenues. In the future, a reversal of this trend might be possible, thanks a recent law that demands that public administration commit 60% of its budget for institutional communication activities in the press sector.   

Telecommunications seems to be better reacting to the crisis than other sectors, thanks to the strategy adopted by the main operators. They have stimulated the market by reducing prices and improving services and products. This sector is expected to grow because of the reduction of mobile tariffs imposed by AgCom: by 2012, all the operators must keep their tariffs at  4.5 cents per minute (an expected reduction of 50 percent). 

  • Censis (2009) 42° Rapporto sulla situazione sociale del Paese. Rapporto Annuale 2008 [42° Report on the Country's Social Situation. Annual Report 2008] Milan: Franco Angeli
  • Fondazione Rosselli (2008) L'industria della comunicazione in Italia. Undicesimo rapporto IEM. 1987-2008: le trasformazioni dell'industria della comunicazione in Italia [Communication Industry in Italy. Eleventh Report IEM. 1987-2008: transformations of Communication Industry in Italy] Guerini e Associati: Milano
  • Giomi, Elisa (2009) Public and Private, Global and Local in Italian Crime Drama: The case of 'La Piovra'. In: Arrdizzoni, Michela; Ferrari, Chiara (eds) Beyond Monopoly: Globalization And Contemporary Italian Media. Lanham, Maryland: Lexington Books, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, pp. 79-100.
  • Giomi, Elisa; Ceccarini, Tommaso (2005) Dall’impatto al progetto. Nuovi modelli di produzione dell’informazione nei media contemporanei [From Impact to Project: Innovative News-making Models in Contemporary Media]. In Adamoli, Patrizia; Marinelli, Maurizio (eds), Comunicazione, media e società [Communication, Media ad Society] Bologna: Baskerville, pp. 145-173.
  • Menduni, Enrico (2007) Fine delle trasmissioni. Da Pippo Baudo a YouTube [End of Broadcasting. From Pippo Baudo to YouTube] Roma-Bari: Laterza
  • Menduni, Enrico (2009) I media digitali. Tecnologie, linguaggi, usi sociali [Digital Media. Technologies, Languages, Social Uses] Roma-Bari: Laterza
  • Monteleone, Franco (2004) Storia della radio e della televisione in Italia [History of Radio and Television in Italy] Venezia: Marsilio
  • Murialdi, Paolo (2006) Storia del giornalismo italiano. Dalle gazzette a Internet [History of Italian Journalism. From Gazzette to the Internet] Bologna: Il Mulino
  • Russo, Paolo (2007) Storia del cinema italiano [History of Italian Cinema] Torino: Edizioni Lindau

Elisa Giomi
Dipartimento di Scienze della Comunicazione
Università degli Studi di Siena
Via Roma 56 – 53100 Siena, Italy
Tel: +39 (0)577 23 47 78
E-mail giomi@unisi.it