Discovery to Comply With Russian Media Ownership Law

Moscow - H - 2015
Associated Press

The controversial regulation, which comes into effect next year, won't be amended.

Discovery Networks promised to comply with a Russian law limiting foreign ownership of media companies to 20-percent stakes. Meanwhile, a senior government official said it won't ease the requirement because Russian media companies' assets were blocked abroad.

Top Discovery officials, including JB Perrette, president of Discovery Networks International, and Kasia Kieli, president and managing director for Central & Eastern Europe, had a meeting with Alexander Zharov, head of Roskomnadzor, Russia's communications watchdog, the agency announced on its web site.

"Discovery Networks' representatives expressed interest in continuing to develop their business in Russia and confirmed their intent to restructure the business so that it complied with Russian legislation," said a statement on Roskomnadzor's web site.

A spokesperson for Discovery in Russia confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter that the law and ways to comply with it were discussed at the meeting but would not provide any further comments.

To comply with the controversial law, which was adopted last year and comes into force as of January 1, 2016, Discovery would have to run its local assets through a Russian-registered company or find a local partner as it would not be able to own more than 20-percent of its assets in Russia.

Earlier this year, Discovery CEO David Zaslav confirmed the company's commitment to Russia, calling it "a long-term growth market."

Meanwhile, a top Russian official's recent statement has burned the hope that the controversial law could be eased.

Nikolai Nikiforov, communications minister, was quoted by the business daily Kommersant as saying that no amendments to the law will be made in view of the recent blocking of foreign bank accounts of state-run media companies, including the news agency TASS and pro-Kremlin English-language TV station Russia Today.