Television, Radio Stations and TV Tax in Italy
Getting to grips with TV standards, understanding where and how to pay the radio and TV licence fees, and what's available to the TV viewer in Italy...
There are three main television/video standards in use throughout the world.
- The system used in the US, Canada, Japan and some other countries is called NTSC
- Most of Western Europe, Australasia and Southern Africa use a system called PAL
- Eastern Europe (and France) uses SECAM
The three standards are not compatible with each other. This means that a TV signal (or video) produced for one system will not work on machinery that's been designed for another.
The Italian system is PAL, therefore a non-PAL compatible television in Italy will not receive a signal or be able to broadcast sound and picture. Multi-standard European TVs and VCRs with automatic switching circuitry are available from electronics suppliers.
Note: there are very few English-language broadcasts in Italy.
Italy finished broadcasting in analogue in July 2012. Digital terrestrial television has led to the increase in free-to-air national channels from 10 to 75.
DTT decoders or set top boxes can be connected to non digital television sets and are widely available on the Italian market. In order to improve picture quality it may be necessary to replace the current aerial with a ‘high gain’ type or to change its position to point directly towards a transmitter.
The Ministro dello Sviluppo Economico has published a practical guide to digital TV in Italy. (PDF in Italian).
The TV Tax
In Italy every house, office or car using a radio or television has to pay a TV tax, (Canone Rai). This is used to subsidise the public television stations (Rai 1, Rai 2, Rai 3).
The tax must be paid regardless of whether these channels are used by a household. However, there is only one payment per household, covering all television sets that the subscribers have for their own private use in the main house as well as in any second home, and for all the members of the family.
People living in furnished flats who do not own the television set they use are also required to pay the TV tax.
People residing abroad with a home in Italy equipped with a television set are also required to pay subscription fees.
Fee payment is also due by holders of a satellite or ground digital television set subscription, even if such equipment is used only for receiving cable or foreign origin broadcasts.
Getting registered and the first payment
The first payment is made in the following way:
- With a 9100 current account form, available at any Italian Post Office
- With a credit card, by phoning the toll-free number 800 191 191 (Credit cards issued in Italy only)
A tax identification number (Codice Fiscale) will need to be provided.
New subscriptions can be started at any time of the year by paying an amount covering the period between the month of subscription and the six-monthly or yearly subscription fee expiry date.
After the first payment, the Television Subscription Office (S.A.T.) will send the subscriber a registration booklet complete with their subscription number and relevant forms for subscription renewals.
The payment can then be made:
- At any Post Office
- Through the bank
- With a credit card using the TAXTEL service.
Tel: 800 191 191
- From abroad, Tel: +39 06 8740 8197
- At an RAI regional office
- Through the Internet via the following websites:
- Paschi Riscossione
Note: Payments by foreign issued credit cards are not accepted by telephone. Contact the RAI for bank details.
The tax may be paid once a year on 31 January, twice a year on 31 January and 31 July, or broken down in to four instalments (31 January, 30 April, 31 July, 31 October).
Note: the Control Authority can detect non-payment of subscription fees, which can incur extra charges of as much as €619 in addition to subscription fees due.
- RAI has more information in English on how to get an Italian TV tax subscription
Radio in Italy
The radio sector has a structure similar to television. RAI, the public broadcasting company, runs three FM/AM nationwide channels (Radio 1, Radio 2, Radio 3) representing altogether more than 50 percent of the national audience.
The 14 commercial radio networks share the rest of the audience. These commercial networks, as well as around 1,300 local stations, are exclusively financed by advertising.
Television Channel Packages
It is necessary to buy a decoder as well as pay the subscription to the relevant satellite provider.
Note: The three RAI TV channels and the three Mediaset private channels (Canale 5, Italia 1, Rete 4), Sky TG24 (News), RAI TG24 (News) plus many other channels are available Free To Air via satellite without having to subscribe to any package.
Operators of digital terrestrial television
There are two types of decoder: interactive decoders and non-interactive decoders, also called "zappers" allowing reception of the TV programs only.
Providers of TV services through IPTC
Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) is a system where television services are delivered via an internet connection. Many Internet or mobile providers will also offer television services and combination package offers.
Some providers include:
- Alice Home TV: offers Internet, telephone and TV
- Fastweb: bundled TV, Internet and telephone service; not available everywhere as it requires fibre optic cabling (mostly in large cities and key areas in Italy). With Fastweb some interactive features and some of the Sky programming are available
Channels made available by public companies
Television Channels with wide coverage through Cable, Satellite or Digital Terrestrial Distribution
- Camera dei Deputati
- Rai Uno
- Rai Due
- Rai Tre
- Rai Doc
- Rai Edu 1
- Rai Futura
- Rai Gulp
- Rai Med
- Rai Movie
- Rai Nettuno Uno
- Rai Nettuno Due
- Rai News 24
- Rai Sport 1
- Rai Sport 2
- Rai Storia
- Rai Utile
- Raisat Cinema World
- Raisat Extra
- Raisat Gambero Rosso
- Raisat Premium
- Raisat Ragazzi
- Senato della Republica
Channels made available by private companies
There are more than one hundred channels available from private companies; these include specialized channels such as: sport, fashion, business, history, music, cartoons, etc.
Pay per view services:
Regional and local channels
There are quite a few regional and local channels in Italy, among them are:
- RAS, a public regional channel
- Public regional windows in national channels (in the Lazio area: RaiTreLazio)
- Private regional windows in national channels (stations affiliated to Odeon TV)
- Private regional or local stations with satellite distribution (in the Lazio area: Roma Channel, Roma Uno, RomaSat).