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Italy - TV

Television has been one of the main forms of media and entertainment in Italy since its inception on the 3rd of January, 1954. The country ranks 13th in the world with more than 360 television broadcast stations. Various public as well as private companies offer specialized channels for entertainment, movies, news, fashion, sport, business, music, children’s programs and history. However, some expats believe that Italian Television is not up to the mark as there are no local channels that broadcast 100% English programs.

A list of TV channels broadcast in each region can be accessed on http://www.monitor-radiotv.com/guidartv.htm and http://www.satellitenews.net/navigando/tvlocali.html. Viewers are required to install a satellite dish (antenna parabolica) to watch programs in foreign languages including English.

There are 2 primary national television entities responsible for most of the viewing across the country: the state-owned RAI (37% of viewing share) and Mediaset, a commercial network (33%). RAI is directly controlled by the government and owns 3 Italian broadcasting channels (RAI Uno, Due & Tre), along with several private channels. The third-largest organization, the Italian unit of Discovery Communication holds only about 5.8% of the total viewership.

In July 2012, the country stopped broadcasting its channels in analogue. The free-to-air national channels have increased from 10 to 75 since then, due to digital terrestrial television. The non-digital television sets can continue receiving channel broadcasts with the help of DTT decoders and set top boxes. These devices enable people to access additional channels. Viewers may have to replace their old aerials with the high-gain type to enhance picture quality though. At times just changing the position of the existing aerial so that it points directly at a transmitter may also do the trick. The percentage of transmission of cable TV in Italy is the lowest (1%) as compared to the other developed countries across the globe.

A practical guide to watching digital TV in Italy has been published by The Ministro Dello Sviluppo Economico & can be accessed on http://www.sviluppoeconomico.gov.it/images/stories/documenti/Guida_pratica_passaggio_digitale.pdf (in Italian).

In order to enjoy television broadcasts, residents have to pay a fee, locally referred to as the annual TV tax (Canone Rai). It is a mandatory charge paid by all television viewers in Italy, which subsidizes the public TV channels, Rai 1, 2 and 3. All TV owners have to pay this fee even if they don’t view these channels. Only one payment is made per subscriber and this covers all the TV sets in the main and second home. Unfortunately, this tax is also levied on residents who live in a furnished house but don’t own a TV set. Italians currently pay around €110.00 per year towards the TV Tax. This also applies to those who have a satellite or Digital TV set subscription for cable and foreign origin broadcasts. A new subscription can commence at any time of the year. Subscribers can get registered and make their first payment though:

The 9100 current account form, which is available at all Post offices
An Italian credit card, using the toll free number 800 191191

Customers need to mention their tax identification number (codice fiscale) while making the payment for the first time. Once the initial fee is paid, the Television Subscription Office (SAT) sends a registration booklet, which contains the subscription number and the renewal forms. TV subscription fees are paid by all TV owners, including those who live abroad.

Subsequent television payments are then made every year. People can choose to pay the whole amount in one go (on January 31st), half-yearly (on January 31st and July 31st) or quarterly (the 31st of January, April, July and October). The payment can be made in different ways, which include:

The local bank
Any post office
TaxTel number (800 191191) or website (http://www.taxtel.it) with a local credit card
RAI’s regional office (http://www.abbonamenti.rai.it/Speciali/SediSpeciali.aspx)

Of the three main Television systems followed the across the globe, PAL is the one that is used in Italy. A TV set that isn’t compatible with the PAL system will therefore not receive a signal or be able to broadcast sound and picture in this country. SECAM (used in Eastern Europe) and NTSC (used in the Us, Canada and Japan) systems will not work in Italy without switching circuitry.

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