Foreign media companies to leave Russia over ownership law

Foreign media companies to leave Russia over ownership law
Headquarters of the Ministry of Telecom and Mass Communications in the Central Telegraph Building, Moscow (Image: S. Barichev under a CC licence)

10 September 2015

Major foreign-owned media holdings are leaving the Russian market, ahead of the deadline for compliance with a new media ownership law.

The new law, which comes into force in January 2016, limits foreign owners to a 20% stake in Russian media organisations.

Among the foreign media holdings selling their Russian assets is German publishing house Axel Springer, which publishes the Russian editions of Forbes, GEO and OK! magazines.

It is reported that Alexander Fedotov, the owner of Artcom Media Group, which publishes SNC and PORT Russia magazines, will buy an 80% stake. The other 20% could be bought by Axel Springer’s CEO, Regina von Flemming, in line with the 20% limit on foreign ownership.

Swiss publishing group Edipresse, which publishes the Russian editions of Mother and Baby and Atelier, is also leaving the Russian market. The group will sell the company Edipresse-Konliga, a subsidiary of Edipresse, to general director of the subsidiary Maxim Zimin.

The law limiting foreign ownership of Russian media holdings was passed in October 2015. Prior to the law being passed, foreigners could have up to a 50% stake in Russian television and radio, while there were no restrictions for print and online media. In addition, the new law stipulates that foreigners cannot found media outlets in Russia.

Although the law itself comes into force at the beginning of 2016, media outlets with foreign ownership will have until 1 February 2017 to bring their ownership structure into compliance.

Justified as helping to protect Russia from western influence, the media ownership law has been widely criticised by media industry leaders.