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.
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). This fee of 90 euros (2020 rate) is incorporated into the electricity bill over the year.
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
RAI has more information on the TV fee - Canone Rai
Any issues regarding the management of the TV fee should be directed to the Agenzia delle Entrate (the Italian tax office) and not the electricity company.
The following are exempt from paying the licence fee:
- Foreign diplomats and military personnel
- People who don't own a television or television reception equipment
A declaration of non-possession or exemption must be submitted yearly. Exemption forms can be downloaded from the Agenzia delle Entrate website
The form can also be submitted online if in possession of a SPID (electronic ID code), which all Italian taxpayers can obtain from the post office.
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 Satellite 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:
- TIM: 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).