Besides the patent box (see Roberto’s post), the Italian “Stability Law 2015″ (Legge di Stabilità) introduced a bundle of new provisions concerning the allocation of frequencies and impacting local audiovisual media services.
The Stability Law focuses on hot topics such as:
- The allocation of the L bands: on February 9, 2015 the Italian Communications Authority (Autorità per le garanzie nelle comunicazioni, AGCOM) initiated a 30 days public consultation for the allocation of L bands frequencies. In accordance with the ECC Decision (13)03 on the harmonized use of the frequency band 1452-1492 MHz for Mobile/Fixed Communications Networks Supplemental Downlink (MFCN SDL) of the European Conference of Postal and Telecommunications Administrations (CEPT) approved on November 8, 2013, the 1452 and 1492 MHz shall be allocated to and used by providers of mobile broadband and ultra-fast broadband services as supplemental downlink, in order to enhance the downlink capability of mobile broadband networks by enabling significantly faster downloads and supporting a much greater number of users with mobile or portable wireless devices. The income expected from this operation by the Italian Government amounts to €600,000,000 that will be used to co-finance the European structural funds, while the surplus will be addressed to local TVs.
- Cross-border frequency spectrum’s interferences: The Stability Law postpones to April 30, 2015 the date of “voluntary” release by local TVs of the interfering frequencies spectrum with neighbor countries and increases the indemnification conceived to compensate those local TVs that will have to interrupt their transmissions to release the frequencies to the benefit of foreign TV stations from € 20 mln to € 51 mln. This operation will involve 76 frequencies operated by 144 local TV operators and the dissatisfaction with the low indemnification is already glaring.
- Allocation of frequencies assigned to Italy at an international level: on February 18 AGCOM initiated the procedures for the allocation of the frequencies assigned at an international level to Italy which are not allocated to national DTT operators (which would be channel 58 as well as channel 60 when released by the current national operator). The allocation will take place through a “beauty contest” solely to those operators which presents certain particular technical and capital features. However, as the Stability Law does not prevent the participation of national TV stations to the contest, the chance for local TVs which will have to dismiss their frequencies spectrum within April 30 to operate new frequencies are very limited.
As per the Stability Law, it also provided that those local operators which already own rights to use frequencies assigned to Italy at an international level shall provide transmission capacity to selected local TV content providers (so called must-carry obligation). The selection will be based on specific criteria defined by the Ministry of Economic Development (Ministero dello Sviluppo Economico, “MISE”), thus meeting the criticisms of operators and content providers concerned about possible threats to their business freedom.
While the measures adopted intend to boost grow and shine a light on long standing shadows spotting the media sector, several players, in particular local TVs, are dissatisfied with the innovations introduced by the Stability Law. We will see how this story is going to end!