Monopolisation of the electronic media and possible abuse of power in Italy

Doc. 10228
22 June 2004

Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights
Rapporteur: Mr Abdülkadir Ates, Turkey, Socialist Group

I.          Conclusions of the Committee

The Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights fully endorses the draft resolution and recommendation presented by the Committee on Culture, Science and Education; however, it would like to suggest a number of amendments to the draft resolution which are more presentational than substantive.

Amendment A

In the first sentence of paragraph 11, replace the words “the Italian authorities” by “the Italian parliament”.

Amendment B

Replace paragraph 11.i by the following paragraph: 

“pass as a matter of urgency a law resolving the conflict of interest between ownership and control of companies and discharge of public office and incorporating penalties for cases where there is a conflict of interests with the discharge of public office at the highest level;”.

Amendment C

Replace paragraphs 11.iii and 11.iv by the following new paragraph:

“amend the Gasparri law in line with the principles set out in Committee of Ministers Recommendation No. R(99)1 on measures to promote media pluralism, in particular by:

a.    avoiding the emergence of dominant positions in the relevant markets within the SIC;

b.    including specific measures to bring an end to the current RAI-Mediaset duopoly;

c.    including specific measures to ensure that digitalisation will guarantee pluralism of content;”.

Amendment D

After paragraph 11.iv, insert the following new paragraph:

“The Assembly calls on the Italian government to:”

Amendment E

Replace paragraph 12 by the following text:

“The Assembly asks the Venice Commission to provide an opinion on the compatibility of the Gasparri Law and the Frattini Bill with the standards of the Council of Europe in the field of freedom of expression and media pluralism, especially in the light of the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights.”

II.         Explanatory memorandum

            by Mr Ates, Rapporteur

1.        The report on the monopolisation of the electronic media and the possible abuse of power in Italy, presented on behalf of the Committee on Culture, Science and Education by Mr Mooney is very well documented and the conclusions drawn in the report should considerably alarm the Parliamentary Assembly.

2.        The electronic media situation in Italy is dominated by a RAI-Mediaset “duopoly” which commands 90% of the television audience and over three quarters of resources in the sector.  This in itself is worrying.  However, the real problem is the following.

3.        As everyone is aware, the Mediaset group is owned by Mr Berlusconi.  As he is also the Prime Minister, political and media power are in the hands of one person; it is the media sector that suffers as a result.

4.        On 22 April 2004, the European Parliament adopted a Resolution on the risks of violation, in the EU and especially in Italy, of freedom of expression and information (Article 11(2) of the Charter of Fundamental Rights), which devotes particular attention to the situation in Italy and reaches the same conclusions as Mr Mooney, namely that the Mediaset group is the largest Italian private group in the television and communications sector and one of the largest in the world, and controls television networks and advertising franchise holders, all of which have been formally found to hold a dominant position in breach of national law by the Communications Regulatory Authority.

5.        The resolution condemns the repeated and documented instances of governmental interference, pressure and censorship and notes that “the Italian system presents an anomaly owing to a unique combination of economic, political and media power in the hands of one man - the current President of the Italian Council of Ministers - and to the fact that the Italian Government is, directly or indirectly, in control of all national television channels”.

6.        The Italian President drew attention to the urgent need for a law to protect the pluralism of information in Italy.

7.        As a result, a bill (the Gasparri bill) was put before parliament and the law was passed in late 2003.  However, the President of the Republic used his power of veto as he did not consider that the law guaranteed pluralism.  The Senate finally approved it on 29 April last.

8.        In the meantime, Mr Berlusconi had signed a decree enabling the group to continue broadcasting in accordance with arrangements which had nonetheless been found to be unlawful by the Italian Constitutional Court.

9.        This situation, moreover, illustrates the scant regard Mr Berlusconi has for the smooth functioning of justice, as shown in Ms Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger’s report on the law on legitimate suspicion.

10.        Consequently, the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights cannot but express its full support for the draft resolution and recommendation presented by the Committee on Culture, Science and Education.

11.        It is of the opinion that the measures proposed could be further strengthened and made more explicit by differentiating what is expected of parliament from what is expected of the government. This is more a question of modifying the presentation rather than the substance.

12.    The Italian parliament should be called upon to:

13.        The resolution should also call upon the Italian government to take the other measures proposed.

14.        Lastly, it is perhaps appropriate to draw the consequences of the two reports being considered today which highlight serious dysfunctions in the institutions in Italy.

Reporting committee: Committee on Culture, Science and Education

Committee for opinion: Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights

Reference to committee: Doc 9947, Reference No 2882 of 25 November 2003

Opinion approved by the committee on 22 June 2004

Secretaries to the committee: Ms Coin, Mr Schirmer, Ms Clamer, Mr Milner

[1] See Doc. 10195 tabled by the Committee on Culture, Science and Education.