Russia’s DTV license up for sale

Scandi owner MTG will bid again

MOSCOW — Russia’s Press Ministry is putting DTV’s license up for auction once it expires Oct. 31. The decision follows a series of warnings from the government about the channel’s failure to comply with its original license requirements.

DTV launched in mid-1999 as “Daryal-TV,” after its founder, presenter Natalya Daryalova. The channel has had financial difficulties since the beginning and ratings remain less than 1%.

DTV, 75%-owned by Scandinavian media conglom Modern Times Group (MTG), acquired the broadcaster in April 2001 for an undisclosed sum, believed to be $10 million. Daryalova, together with her father Arkady Weiner, hold the remaining 25%. The pair is believed to have consulted international lawyers to dispute the terms of MTG’s acquisition, according to sources.

Date of auction has yet to be announced, but is expected to be held at the end of November. The event will likely be seen as a test case for whether Russia’s broadcasting authorities favor an incumbent overseas investor or give preference to local players.

The sale is expected to draw interest from both domestic and overseas media companies. When TV-6’s license went up for auction last spring, the process drew a range of bidders including established media groups, independent production companies, and lesser-known wild-card outfits. In the end, the current owners, backed by a new set of investors, kept the license.

In local press reports, MTG prexy and CEO Hans-Holger Albrecht suggested that the company would participate in any auction, and was willing to pay the $1 million license fee. In a statement, MTG said that the complaints concerned had been made before its acquisition of the 75% stake, and that it was aware of them.

Two powerful local players have already expressed interest in a potential bid. Channel 1 Russian Public Television (ORT) is the country’s biggest broadcaster, and would look to DTV as a potential outlet for more experimental projects. Independent programmer ATV also harbors ambitions to own a channel.

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