Government official says collaboration could help fend off influence of Fox, Netflix; suggests quick 5G sale would raise more than postal privatisation.

An Italian government official has spoken out in favour of a tie-up between national telco TIM and broadcaster Mediaset, both of which count Vivendi as a major shareholder, to ensure Italy’s contribution to the European content space, according to Italian press reports.

Combining the TIM – formerly Telecom Italia – network with Mediaset’s content assets would help both companies to grow and compete with the big international content providers, communications undersecretary Antonello Giacomelli said in an interview published in Italian newspaper La Stampa at the weekend.

However, the Italian nature of the companies must be preserved, he said, clearly alluding to the influence Vivendi wields at both.

The French media group is TIM’s largest shareholder with a stake of almost 24%, and is the second largest holder in Mediaset, after former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, with a 28.8% stake.

Europe needs to come together to avoid letting the likes of Fox and Netflix dominate the content space, Giacomelli said.

"Italy has a role to play in entertainment. Collaboration with France is a good thing provided our role is not always to give something up," he told the paper.

On the subject of collaboration, Giacomelli also noted that the unification of TIM’s network with that of Open Fiber, the alternative ultrafast broadband project undertaken by electricity utility Enel, would be a positive development, if the two companies could reach agreement.

The Italian government has invested heavily in infrastructure as a result of the operators largely failing in that area, Giacomelli said. However, a renationalisation of the Telecom Italia network is not on the cards.

"The total privatisation [of Telecom Italia] was an error. But we cannot rewrite history," he said.

Looking to the future, he noted that Italy could set in motion plans for a 5G auction very quickly, should it so desire.

It is too early to estimate the revenues such a sale could generate, but it certainly would not be less than the figure generated by the privatisation of the postal service, he said. The government sold off a 35% stake in Poste Italiane just under a year ago, raising €3 billion.