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%.
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.
Half of the RAI's revenues come from broadcast receiving licence fees, the rest from the sale of advertising time.
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%.