NEWS » Berlusconi publishing monopoly following acquisition of RSC Media Group?

Berlusconi publishing monopoly following acquisition of RSC Media Group?

Berlusconi's family owned publishing house Mondadori has bought RCS MediaGroup. 127.5 million euros have been paid to buy the publishing houses Rizzoli, Bompiani, Fabbri and Marsilio, which are part of the RCS MediaGroup. The deal includes also 2.5 million euros in debt. The two groups together cover now 55% of the top ranking 100 titles sold last year in Italy and seven out of ten of the main best sellers last year were theirs (Zusak, Green, Follett, Brown...). The new group covers now 40% of the book market 25% of which are school publications.

This is a situation without precedent as the acquisition brings the domestic market share of Mondadori, controlled by the family of former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, close to a worryingly predominant position.

Italy's competition watchdog will start an investigation to cast its verdict on the legitimacy of the new group, which represents a novelty in Europe where usually the leading group buys the third of forth in importance on the internal market, while in this case the first, Mondadori has bought the second in importance, RCS MediaGroup.

RCS, whose shareholders include the Agnelli family, merchant bank Mediobanca and Tod's owner Diego Della Valle, has seen revenues decline as companies cut down advertising because of the economic crisis and the online competition.

 

After the announcement, shares in RCS rose 4.8 percent by 1035 GMT, while Mondadori shares gained 3 percent.

 

Reportedly, Mondadori Chairwoman Marina Berlusconi said that sector dynamics worldwide are pushing publishers to join forces. This process is more necessary in Italy, where operators are much smaller compared to other leading countries.

 

What is worrying is that small publishing houses (that are occasionally indispensable in discovering new authors) will be strangled by the new giant.  

 

Moreover the new colossus would acquire an unsettling bargaining power over authors. It could force authors to adapt themselves to the terms offered, or fall into the hands of a smaller publisher.

Moreover, a group with a 40 percent market share would also have decisive influence over book stores and would be capable of preventing smaller publishers from having their books distributed. Therefore the author who chooses not to give in to the group’s offer will see reduced opportunities in terms of distribution.

 

In February, when the acquisition of the RCS Group was proposed about fifty authors who work with Bompiani (and other publishing houses) publicly protested, apparently with no effects so far.

Giulia Lombardo

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