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Belarus slaps on TV controls

Belarus is settiing up a government-approved single monopoly for the distribution of TV channels.

BBC Monitoring is quoting Russia’s Gazeta as a source for the new rules which are said to be specifically targeting Russian TV channels. “The introduction of a single state distributor of foreign channels will, first, establish a monopoly on the market of television content and, second, allow the Belarusian authorities to immediately stop undesirable broadcasts from Russia,” says BBC Monitoring.

The BBC report continues, saying that the Information Ministry of Belarus has prepared a presidential edict establishing a single state distributor of foreign media on the country’s territory. This primarily concerns television channels. Once the edict has been approved, the authorised state body will be solely responsible for signing contracts with foreign providers of television content. “It will then, at its own discretion, transmit such content to commercial cable operators”.

There are currently around 200 cable TV operators in Belarus. Their packages include between 50 and 100, or even more, channels. The majority of them are Russian or Russian-language channels. It means that independent operators will now cease to be independent and will have to act though the state monopolist, which will also oversee the placement of Belarusian advertising on Russian channels, which replaces Russian commercials.

The Information Ministry of Belarus was, quotes the BBC, quick to explain that a single operator is needed in order “to improve control of the market and to promote the achievements of the Republic of Belarus in the international arena.” They also mentioned projected growth of state budget revenue. However, the ministry has declined to comment officially on the edict.

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