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By Viktor Khamrayev

Everyone Has the Right

Vremya Novostei, January 24, 2002

No one should have a monopoly over the airwaves; and even ownership rights may be restricted to ensure that this is the case. This was the considered conclusion of the Union of Right-WIng Forces (SPS) faction of the Duma, which has discussed the conflict over TV-6. The SPS leader Boris Nemtsov even has a formula for demonopolizing the media industry - which he has already shared with President Vladimir Putin.

Nemtsov believes that nobody – neither the state structures (including affiliated) nor private - should be permitted to control over 25% of the television industry. Nemtsov is referring only to national and similar channels. Four laws should be amended to enable this anti-monopoly standard to come into effect - the laws on natural monopolies, competition, state service, and the media. The president liked the idea, Nemtsov said.

Andrei Vulf, an SPS deputy on the Duma Committee for Information Policy, does not think his leader could have timed the initiative any better. Vulf considers that elimination of the independent TV channel is a means of "a war on political opponents". When no one has monopoly rights over the airwaves, no one will have monopoly rights over information either.

Yevgeny Ischenko, Deputy Chairman of the Property Committee of the State Duma and independent deputy, criticized the anti-monopoly initiative. He referred to the Constitution, which bans restriction of ownership rights. And since a private individual cannot be restricted in his/herrights as owner, then the state cannot be restricted either. The closest ally of the SPS, Yabloko, is also sceptical. "Percentages are important, but they are really only a secondary issue," says Deputy Head of the Yabloko faction Sergei Ivanenko, who is on the Committee for Information Policy. He believes that the problem is actually based elsewhere – in "money and licenses". The money may come "from the state, oligarchs, or any group of individuals".

According to Ivanenko, a license "is a matter of good intentions from the state”, as the state organizes the tenders. If the state has good intentions, it will support independent TV channels. Ivanenko does not think that the government has good intentions nowadays. Neither does he think there is a political force in Russia now which is capable of challenging the authorities. That is why Yabloko will draft a law on public television - and, if the Duma passes it, will set out to create this kind of television.

The Communist faction also advocates the idea of public television, says deputy Alexander Kravets. The Communists advocate pretty much the same as Yabloko promotes - any individual may buy one or more shares in a TV channel. However, Kravets doubts that the Communists will succeed, "as Yabloko is after the same thing" and does not think that Nemtsov's idea will guarantee the existence of independent media in Russia. Kravets does not think any such guarantees are possible, "given the regime that we have".

"LUKoil-Garant controlled only 15% of TV-6 and yet the whole company was shut down," Kravets was quoted as saying.

See also:

Media Law in Russia

TV6 Case

Vremya Novostei, January 24, 2002

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