New law curbs foreign ownership in Russian media

Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a law setting 20% restriction on the share of foreign stakeholders in Russian mass media and a ban on foreigners’ role of co-founders of Russian mass media, ITAR-TASS reports.

The high-profile law, approved by the upper house of parliament on October 1, was published on the official legal information portal on Wednesday.

The new rules will take effect as of January 1, 2016. Media owners will have enough time until February 1, 2017 to bring the entire corporate chain in conformity with the law. The new documents on the owners and founders shall be submitted to the Russian mass media watchdog Roskomnadzor no later than February 15, 2017. In case of violations the agency is obliged to ask a court of law to suspend the mass medium’s operation.

The law specifically stipulates that the restrictions on foreign presence in the mass media are effective unless an international treaty to which Russia is a party provides otherwise. The inter-state television and radio broadcaster MIR and the television and radio company of the union state of Russia and Belarus are examples of such exemptions.

According to Bloomberg, the law threatens to squeeze owners of entertainment television in Russia, including operators CTC Media Inc. (CTCM) and Walt Disney Co. (DIS), cable TV channels such as Discovery Communications Inc. (DISCA) and publishers of glossy magazines, including Sanoma OYJ (SAA1V), Hearst Corp. and Conde Nast.

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