Bill to put 20 percent limit in foreign stakes in Russian media firms passes Duma

Russia's State Duma on Friday passed a draft law to limit the proportion of capital in Russian media groups that may be foreign-owned to 20 percent.

Russia's State Duma on Friday passed a draft law to limit the proportion of capital in Russian media groups that may be foreign-owned to 20 percent.

Today a maximum stake of 50 percent in a radio or television company may be under foreign ownership. There are no restrictions for printed media.

The planned law, planned to come into force on January 1, 2016, would apply to all media assets, including, websites but would not cover media projects that are not licensed as media entities.

Nor would it apply to media entities based on international agreements.

One of them is the Mir Interstate Television Company, one of the authors of the bill, Vadim Dengin, who is first deputy chairman of the Duma Committee on Information Policy, said during a debate on the draft law at a committee meeting.

The bill was introduced to the lower house on September 17 and passed its first reading on September 22. On Friday it passed the second and the third, final reading.

Its other authors are Vladimir Parakhin of A Just Russia and Denis Voronenkov of the Communist Party.

The owners of media companies with foreign-owned stakes of more than 20 percent would have until February 1, 2017, to bring them down, and would have the deadline of February 15, 2017, to submit documents recording this to the Federal Supervisory Service for Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media (Roskomnadzor).

The head of Russia's Journalists' Union, Pavel Gusev, complained that the planned law had not been put up for public debate before being laid before the Duma.

"Today our principal major media that influences the population are television channels that belong either to the state or to structures affiliated with it. For this reason, today's draft law would primarily strike at glossy magazines, at the Vedomosti newspaper, and partially at the Ekho Moskvy radio station," Gusev told Izvestia in an interview a transcript of which was published in Friday's issue.

He pointed out that the bill had taken a remarkably short time to be passed by the Duma. "Why wasn't it discussed with the media community or put before the Public Chamber? I believe that this is an impermissible violation of rules because socially significant laws - the media is a social institution - should be discussed with the public," he said.

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