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MOSCOW — President Vladimir Putin has signed in a new bill banning commercials on pay TV. The move leaves no avenues for revising the controversial law, which will come into effect on January 1, 2015.
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The rationale behind the bill, passed earlier by both chambers of Russian Parliament, was to create equal conditions for pay-TV networks (which collect revenues from both subscriptions and advertisements) and free-to-air stations (which only rely on commercials).
Russia’s communication watchdog Roskomnadzor explained that in order to be exempt from the new regulation, a station has to have a free-to-air broadcasting license in at least one of the country’s regions. However, the only major pay-TV station that has such a license is the business network RBK TV.
A host of other local and international networks — including the embattled oppositionist network Dozhd, the state-run English network Russia Today and foreign broadcasters like Discovery and Disney Channel — will have to comply with the new law. The Russian offices of Discovery and Disney declined to comment.
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Meanwhile, before being singed into law, the bill came under criticism from various sides. Pay-TV operators complained that they would be unable to cover their costs from subscription fees alone. The presidential human rights council warned that the ban could lead to the “monopolization of the TV advertisement market.”
Earlier this month, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) called on Putin to veto the bill that could lead “to cutting off private small- and medium-scale channels from their principal source of revenue, which is advertising,” as the organization said in a statement on its website.
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