Russian Parliament Rejects Limits on Foreign Media Ownership

22 June 2001

Legislation to limit foreign ownership of Russian media groups to a maximum of 50% was yesterday rejected by the Russian parliament.

The Duma (Russia’s lower legislative chamber which gave the bill an initial thumbs-up in April) voted against it at the second reading stage.

The bill was prompted by American media mogul Ted Turner’s attempts to purchase a stake in television broadcaster NTV [WAMN: 04-Apr-01].

Although NTV was eventually taken over by state-dominated gas monopoly Gazprom, the whole affair aroused anxiety among nationalists over the influence foreign media owners might wield. One of the bill’s authors, pro-Kremlin lawmaker Alexander Chuyev, argued that non-Russian media ownership would “pose a threat to national security.”

Restrictions on foreign ownership of broadcast media are common in the US and Europe. However, what was unusual about the Russian bill is that it also included print media – bad news for the English-language Moscow Times (published by Dutch-headquartered Independent Media) and business paper Vedomosti (33%-owned by Dow Jones).

The defeated bill will be revised and may be resubmitted to the Duma in the autumn, said liberal lawmaker Irina Khakamada, adding that president Vladimir Putin had assured her the final legislation would exclude print media.

News source: Wall Street Journal