Europeans, stronger level playing field for Mediaset and La7. Milder for Rai

Europeans, stronger level playing field for Mediaset and La7.  Milder for Rai

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ROME – The law on level playing fieldguarantee of an equal presence of parties and candidates on television as the elections approach – risks going haywire.

The short circuit of the law, if realized, will have a precise effect on the occasion of the European elections in June. Private publishers (such as Mediaset and La7) they will have to apply the rules rigorously, under penalty of severe sanctions.

Instead, Rai could benefit from greater freedom of maneuver and, theoretically, of a sort of immunity. For public service TV, the risk of fines may be remote.

Who benefits from it?

The Meloni government and the centre-right majority – who certainly have a say in Viale Mazzini and in Parliament – can they benefit from all this?

The law on equal conditions – which is from 2000 – establishes the general rules of the televised match. Instead, the operational and implementation provisions are decided, at each electoral round, by two different bodies:
– the Parliamentary Supervisory Commission, which is responsible for Rai;
– and AgCom, responsible for private publishers (Mediaset, La7 and the others).

AgCom then monitors the conduct of all broadcasters, both public (Rai) and private; and can sanction them.

For 24 years now, the provisions of the Parliamentary Supervisory Commission (for Rai) and that of AgCom (for private individuals) have always been mirror-image, symmetrical. For 24 years, the exact same obligations have therefore fallen on public networks and private networks.

A common principle

Now things can change and this symmetry can break. Let’s see why. The provisions of the AgCom, already approved, and those of the Supervisory Commission (still in draft) they have a general principle in common.

For the first time, the Supervisory Commission and AgCom agree that Not all minutes on television are the same. A minute at 9pm in the evening, in front of millions of spectators, is worth much more than a minute at midnight, when there are a few hundred thousand spectators.

Both the Supervisory Commission and AgCom they think that the minutes of TV visibility of politicians and parties should be weighed and considered based on ratings. Only in this way will a true one be achieved level playing field.

Two methodologies

The problem, however, is that the provisions of the Supervisory Commission and those of AgCom they implement two very different methodologies to weigh the minutes of television visibility.

From this point of view, therefore, symmetry is missing between the rules of the Supervisory Commission and the rules of AgCom.

Now suppose that Rai violates the level playing field on the occasion of the next European Championships. In this case, it is up to AgCom to intervene with a series of tools:
– the warning, then the order to restore equal visibility between the parties,
finally the fine, in case the issuer ignores the order of the AgCom.

Basketball and football

Now, for the first time in the country’s history, AgCom would be called upon to monitor and intervene on the basis of rules (of Rai Supervision) which are different from those that AgCom itself has launched for private networks.

It is as if an arbitrator (AgCom) – entitled to call fouls on a basketball court – would suddenly blow the whistle even on a football pitch. The rules are vaguely similar; but very different in substance.

This is where the potential short circuit takes shape. Faced with violations, AgCom will recall Rai and order it to restore the level playing field and will fine you (in case you neglect the order).

The TAR cancels

But it is very likely that the judges of the TAR and the Council of Statecalled to judge the legitimacy of AgCom’s actions, cancel its sanction.

The annulment would be decided precisely because of the lack of symmetry between the provisions of the AgCom (for private publishers) and of the Parliamentary Supervisory Commission (for Rai).

Now in sight of the European Championshipsthere is therefore sand that can jam the delicate mechanism of level playing field electoral. Why? And who benefits?

THE INFORMAL OPINION ON AGCOM'S PROVISIONS

THE INFORMAL OPINION ON AGCOM’S PROVISIONS

Informal consultancy

In this delicate matter, it is certainly striking that exponents of the centre-right have asked for an informal opinion from technicians external to the institutions.

This opinion – which circulates in Parliament without signature or headed paper – takes issue with the provisions that AgCom has already approved for private publishers (Mediaset, La7).

A curious, irregular practice. These zealous exponents of the center-right seem to have a specific objective: delegitimize the work of AgCom, despite it being an independent Guarantor.

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