June 4, 2021
MILAN (Reuters) – The European Commission will launch an infringement procedure against Italy for a media law that could curb Vivendi’s interests in the country, according to the newspaper la Repubblica.
The Commission raised questions about the validity of the law, approved by Rome in November, which allowed the National Communications Authority AGCOM to launch an investigation into Vivendi’s Italian assets to assess whether these holdings are harmful to media pluralism.
French Vivendi, controlled by billionaire Vincent Bollore, holds a 29% stake in the leading Italian commercial television group Mediaset and is also the main investor in the former Telecom Italia (TIM) telephony monopoly with a 24% stake.
The law gives the Italian regulator the power to impose limits on companies that hold stakes in both telecommunications and television companies, after evaluating total revenues, barriers to entry and the level of competition in those sectors.
“The Commission believes that these media pluralism rules contained in the Italian November law should have been notified under the Transparency Directive,” a European Commission spokesperson said during a weekly briefing on Friday.
“I can also say that we are examining the compliance of the adopted law with the relevant trade union law,” added the spokesperson.
Vivendi had filed a formal complaint with the European Commission against Italian law, saying it was aimed at helping Mediaset, controlled by the family of former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, in a lengthy legal dispute against the French group.
However, last month, Mediaset and Vivendi concluded years of legal sparring with a deal under which the Paris-based company will drastically cut its stake in the broadcaster over the next five years.
Two legal sources close to Vivendi told Reuters that opening an infringement procedure would have no effect on the long-awaited agreement reached between the two companies, which will be finalized in July.
(Reporting by Giulio Piovaccari, Elvira Pollina, additional reportage by Foo Yun Chee in Brussels; editing by Giulia Segreti, Jason Neely and Barbara Lewis)