Russia weighs new foreign ownership limits

Russian legislators have called for a ceiling of 20% to be imposed on foreign ownership of media outlets.

Sergei Zheleznyak, the deputy secretary of the ruling United Russia party, said that the proposed law – a draft of which was published yesterday – is designed to guarantee Russia’s “information sovereignty” by decreasing the influence of foreign companies.

The bill has been put to before the lower house, the Duma on the initiative of deputies from the Just Russia party, the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia and the Communist Party, which are nominally opposition parties.

The law would ban foreign legal entities or individuals, people without Russian citizenship and people with dual citizenship from founding media outlets in the country. Undeclared dual nationality was banned in Russia in August, following the country’s annexation of Crimea.

The current bill before the Duma must be passed in three readings before going to the upper house, likely coming into law at the beginning of 2016.

A current law limits ownership of radio and TV stations by foreigners to 50%.

A number of foreign entities hold stakes in Russian media companies. Sweden’s Modern Times Group owned 37.9% of Russian broadcaster CTC Media’s issued share capital as of June. About 35% of CTC Media’s shares are also traded on the NASDAQ exchange, with the company being registered in Delaware.

Walt Disney Co in 2011 acquired a 49% in UTH’s Seven TV channel to use its frequency to broadcast Disney in Russia.