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Moscow mandate

Russia to equalize b'cast transmission fees

MOSCOW — Russian broadcasters face major upheaval after announcements from Vice Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov that rules affecting transmission charges and licensing procedures would be revised before the end of the year.

Quoted Thursday in leading business daily Kommersant, Nemtsov announced that transmission charges — a large element in many pubcaster budgets — would be equalized.

Some pay less

Three broadcasters — pubcaster holding RTR, partly publicly owned Channel 1 ORT and leading indie NTV — pay a reduced rate compared to charges levied on other private channels.

Far more radically, however, Nemtsov also announced that future renewals of broadcasting licenses would be put on an annual tender basis.

He explained the move as an attempt to enforce a climate of anti monopoly practices, though for many observers it will seem an immediate attempt by the state to pressure the media into toeing the government line after conflict over reporting recent social unrest.

Competition encouraged

Nemtsov said the moves were likely to encourage competition.

“The government’s role should be to stimulate in every way the growth of a national TV system. I understand new projects may be expensive, costing in the region of $5 billion to $6 billion, but I’m sure that only when the field is de-monopolized will talk of the excessive influence of media barons over government vanish,” Nemtsov said.

Reaction from TV heads was almost universally negative, except for some private channels that welcomed a possible drop in transmission pricing.