The RAI operates many DVB and Sat television channels and radio stations, broadcasting via digital terrestrial transmission (15 television and 7 radio channels nationwide) and from several satellite platforms. It is the biggest television broadcaster in Italy and competes with Mediaset, and other minor television and radio networks. The RAI has a relatively high television audience share of 33.8%.[better source needed]
RAI broadcasts are also received in neighboring countries, including Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Malta, Monaco, Montenegro, San Marino, Slovenia, Vatican City, Switzerland, and Tunisia, and elsewhere on cable and satellite. Sometimes Rai 1 was received even further in Europe via Sporadic E until the digital switch off in July 2012.
In 1950, the RAI became one of the 23 founding broadcasting organizations of the European Broadcasting Union.
The Unione Radiofonica Italiana (URI) was formed in 1924 with the backing of the Marconi Company following a model adopted in other European countries. URI made its inaugural broadcast — a speech by Benito Mussolini at Teatro Costanzi — on 5 October. Regular programming began the following evening, with a quartet performing Haydn's Quartet No. 7 in A major from the Palazzo Corradi. At 21.00 CET, Ines Donarelli Viviani announced for the first time: "URI—Unione Radiofonica Italiana Rome station 1RO 425 meters wavelength. To all those who are listening our greetings, good evening." Guglielmo Marconi's S.A. Radiofono—Società Italiana per le Radiocomunicazioni Circolari (Radiofono) held 85% of URI shares and Western Electric's Società Italiana Radio Audizioni Circolari (SIRAC) held the remaining 15%.
Under the provisions of Royal Decree No. 1067 of 8 February 1923, wireless broadcasting became a state monopoly under the control of the Ministry of Posts and Telegraphs; URI was commissioned to provide services for a minimum of six years pursuant to Royal Decree No. 2191 of 14 October 1924 "Concessione dei servizi radioauditivi circolari alla Società Anonima Unione Radiofonica Italiana". However, when URI's contract expired in 1927, it was succeeded under Royal Decree Law No. 2207 of 17 November 1927 by the partially nationalised Ente Italiano per le Audizioni Radiofoniche (EIAR), which became Radio Audizioni Italiane S.p.A. (RAI) with investment from Società Idroelettrica Piemontese (SIP) in 1944.
During the reconstruction following World War II, much of RAI's early programming was influenced by the "Reithian" style of the BBC. The emphasis was on educational content. Programs like Non è mai troppo tardi and Un viaggio al Po introduced people to what life was like in other parts of the country, at a time when most people couldn't afford to travel.