Berlusconi Law May Ban Daytime Porn, Hurt Murdoch’s Sky Italia

Pretty obvious what happened here. Murdoch’s people report on Berlusconi’s sex antics, Berlusconi hits him right back in the pocketbook.

from www.businessweek.com — Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s government is backing new media rules that forbid pay-per-view pornography and other adult programming during daylight hours, a measure that would hurt revenue at News Corp.’s Sky Italia SpA.

Rupert Murdoch’s Italian satellite unit is the country’s largest pay-television service and has five pay-per-view channels with adult content during the day and 22 at night. Sky Italia had 45 million euros ($63 million) in sales from porn programming, half of all its pay-per-view revenue, according to a report in October in L’Espresso magazine. That’s a fraction of the company’s 2008 sales of 2.6 billion euros.

“We are waiting for the legislative process to conclude in order to evaluate the decree’s impact,” a Sky Italia spokesman said in an e-mail response to questions.

Berlusconi, 73, is the country’s biggest media owner and controls Mediaset SpA, the largest private TV broadcaster and a Sky Italia competitor.

“This rule goes against personal freedom,” Marco Crispino, chief executive officer of pay-per-view sports and porn broadcaster Conto TV, said in an interview.

The Cascina, Italy-based company’s porn channel “is going rather well, but if they block transmission it would hurt us economically. We made investments, bought broadcast rights,” Crispino said.

Only broadcasters, not Web-porn providers, will be affected by the rules.

Undersecretary of Communications Paolo Romani promised to change the regulations, Luca Barbareschi, a lawmaker in Berlusconi’s People of Liberty party, said late yesterday in an interview.

“They need to be changed because they are a folly,” Barbareschi, who is also a film star, said. “We can’t make rules that favor just one person,” he said, referring to Berlusconi.

Google Inc. last week said it was “concerned” that Berlusconi’s new rules attempting to regulate Web TV were aimed at limiting access to its YouTube site. Parliamentary committees reviewing the rules will invite Sky Italia and Google to testify, perhaps as soon as next week, Barbareschi said.

The regulations would gradually limit the maximum amount of advertising per hour for pay television, including Sky Italia, to 12 percent in 2012 from 18 percent last year, while free-to- air broadcast channels, including Mediaset’s, will be able to increase advertising minutes to a maximum of 20 percent per hour from 18 percent. That would also limit revenue at Sky Italia.

It’s not the first time Berlusconi and Murdoch have been at odds over Italy’s media market. Berlusconi accused Murdoch last June of using his newspapers to attack him when the premier was embroiled in a sex scandal.

Mediaset Vice Chairman Pier Silvio Berlusconi said “there’s a risk” of a “war” with rival Sky Italia as Italy’s biggest private broadcasters fight for market share, Corriere della Sera’s weekly supplement Sette reported in an article published today.

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