Italian publishers criticise AGCOM penalty disparities

By | March 17, 2021

AGCOM, Italy’s federal communications and media agency, has stated that it will maintain stricter monitoring of online media platforms, advertising of online gambling content. 

The regulator issued its warning to digital media incumbents having sanctioned a €50,000 fine to Tuscan provincial news source ‘Il Giunco’ for displaying a ‘casino advertorial link’ on its ilgiunco.net website.

The enforcement drew widespread criticism of AGCOM, which was branded as a ‘punitive agency’ for penalising independent Il Giunco – a firm generating less than €100,000 in revenue – with a €50,000 fine. 

Defending its actions, AGCOM stated that it had enforced the minimum ‘applicable fine’ in its penalty of Il Giunco, as the company had breached Italy’s advertising standards under the mandate of the federally approved Dignity Decree.

Enforced since 2019, the Decree’s tough stance on online advertising states that digital publishers can only promote online gambling operators’ standard information on product and services.

Italian digital advertisers are therefore prohibited from displaying ‘promotional incentives or messaging’ of online gambling operators.  Il Giunco advertorial link was deemed to have promoted a ‘best games and slots’ message endorsing wisecasino.net.

The Tuscan news outlet unsuccessfully disputed that the advertorial link had been provided via an affiliate partner indirectly promoting the online casino.

Italian media observers state that the severity of AGCOM’s penalty has demonstrated the deep discrepancies of how Decree laws are being enforced.

Last year, AGCOM fined Google Ireland €100,000 for multiple breaches of the Decree’s online advertising standards across its search engine and ad-network content.  

This contrasts with the insolvency-threatening €50,000 fine issued to Il Giunco, an independent publisher providing a vital news source for the region of Tuscany. 

Following AGCOM’s Google judgement, Italian digital media operators demanded that the agency update the publishing terms of the Dignity Decree on online gambling advertising.