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BBC must reapply for Russia licence

November 12, 2014

By Chris Forrester

BBC Monitoring is reporting that the head of Russia’s Roskomnadzor (Russian Federal Service for Supervision in Telecommunications, Information Technology and Mass Communications) says that the BBC must, like CNN, re-apply for a transmission licence over Russia, and that their current position was “not legitimate”.

Aleksandr Zharov, speaking on Russia’s Kommersant FM radio station, said that the BBC’s transmission on Russian cable systems was only “nominally legitimate”. “[The BBC] had an agreement with two major cable operators with Gazprom-Media, but nevertheless their presence was not 100 per cent legitimate. We have met the BBC management several times, and they are at the stage of finalizing the necessary documents for a 100 per cent universal licence, which gives the right to broadcast via cable, satellite and all non-terrestrial media. As for CNN, until recently it was constantly looking for ways of resolving this issue,” quotes BBC Monitoring.

He continued: “Receiving a universal licence for a legitimate presence in non-terrestrial media, cable and satellite, in the territory of the Russian Federation. The difficulties are related to specific features of English, for the BBC, and American legislation – transferring rights to broadcast to third parties, and so on. After the law limiting the presence of foreign capital in Russian media outlets to 20 per cent was passed, CNN at this moment has acted absolutely correctly, informing all operators that its presence is not legitimate.”

Addressing the CNN position, he said: “After some time they will take one of three possible decisions: either give their rights to a Russian legal entity, or cede their authors’ rights to it and broadcasting would take place via a Russian legal entity, or sign another agreement with a Russian broadcaster that would allow it to have a legitimate presence in the territory of the Russian Federation.”

Speaking later to the Interfax news agency he added that there are no legislative acts of the Russian Federation preventing CNN from getting a universal licence now. “Most likely, some legislative acts in their country of origin are preventing them,” he said. “They [CNN] have taken the decision themselves [to stop broadcasting], no-one contacted us, but we are open to further dialogue,” Zharov said.

Asked whether the new law limiting foreign ownership of Russian media outlets would lead to a reduction in the number of outlets, Zharov is quoted as saying that most foreign TV channels in Russia were de facto Russian and just registered offshore.

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