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State Duma to finalize bill to limit foreign share in Russian media

September 26, 2014, 10:08 UTC+3 MOSCOW
The restrictions under the bill are to be introduced from January 1, 2016
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© Archive ITAR-TASS/Anton Novoderezhkin

MOSCOW, September 26. /ITAR-TASS/. The State Duma lower house of Russia’s parliament is expected finalize the work on Friday on the high-profile bill that would limit the foreign share in the authorised capital of Russian media outlets to 20%

The bill is also to bar foreigners from founding mass media outlets in Russia. The Duma is expected to consider the bill in the second reading and as a whole.

On Thursday, the house information policy committee recommended to the Duma to make an amendment to the bill text that would exempt from the future law effect the media, formed by international agreements. As an example of such media outlets, the lawmakers named the intestate TV and radio company Mir and the TV and radio company of the Russia-Belarus Union State. The rest adjustments approved by the committee for the second reading are technical.

The committee, however, did not support the amendment, put forward by Communist party faction MP Oleg Smolin, to exempt from the law effect also the media outlets that hold the licence only for cultural and educational programs (except military patriotic), children’s, sports, entertainment and music broadcasting.

“The law deals with ensuring national security, and the spheres we talk about are not directly related to national security,” he said, justifying his position.

Smolin drew an analogy between the bill and the law on NGO - “foreign agents” where similar exemptions were made and also voiced concern over the “lack of clarity on the way the reformatting on the founders’ share will be carried out and the risk of losing good educational channels.”

Meanwhile, committee member of the United Russia party Roman Chuichenko said that that the “law establishes principled relations between the residents and non-residents and compromise is out of place here.” “We don’t prohibit by this law the publication of fashion and style, popular science, educational programs,” he said. “We only say who will be the owner.”

The lawmaker told the colleagues that the new norms would not terminate, for instance, the Discovery TV channel and the issue of glossy magazines. The point is who will be the owner: “they will be either published under a franchise contract or will be owned by foreign residents,” he said. At the same time, the amendment proposed by Smolin may be used “as a loophole for possible schemes,” Chuichenko said.

His view was shared by the committee first deputy head Leonid Levin (A Just Russia) who drew attention to the fact that it is planned to adopt “the law on joint-stock companies, on the state property structure, and not on the information policy.”

The restrictions under the bill are to be introduced from January 1, 2016. The media outlet owners are given the time until February 1, 2017 to bring the whole corporate chain in line with the law, and new documents on the owners and founders must be submitted to the Federal Supervision Agency for Information Technologies and Communications (Roskomnadzor) no later than February 15, 2017. If any violations are found, the agency turns to court for the suspension of the activity of the noncompliant media outlet.

At the beginning of the plenary meeting the Duma plans to settle a number of organizational issues, including o appoint Levin chairman of the committee on information policy, information technology and communications. He was nominated by the A Just Russia faction. The post of the Duma information policy committee became vacant on September 23 after the lawmakers removed its former head Aleksey Mitrofanov (also A Just Russia member). It is also planned to reappoint Vladimir Burmatov as first deputy head of Duma’s education committee.

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