Television Business International

Russian media restrictions could extend to OTT

The Russian government has given a positive reception to a proposed bill that could see foreign media ownership restrictions extended to OTT TV services, but has asked for clarification on a number of points.

The bill, sponsored by Duma deputies Andrei Lugovoi – best known abroad as a suspect in the poisoning of dissident and former spy Alexander Litvinenko by radioactive Polonium-2010 – and Shamsaev Saraliev, would see foreign ownership of OTT TV services with 100,000 monthly users limited to 20%.

The 20% threshold would also be applied to services with over 20,000 users in any single Russian region, according to the proposed bill.

The government has asked the bill’s authors to clarify the respective definitions of audiovisual products and audiovisual services and to explain the purpose of the restriction on audiovisual services.

The head of the Russian information policy committee, Leonid Levin, told the Izvestia newspaper that the government would take a final decision on whether to recommend the bill at its first committee reading tomorrow.

The move comes one year after a similar 20% restriction on foreign ownership was placed on mass media companies.

The proposed restriction on OTT TV services may not apply to sites that ‘predominantly’ host user-generated content, meaning YouTube would probably be exempted.

The bill calls for the audiovisual media watchdog, the Roskomnadzor to set up a register of online services with over 100,000 users or 20,000 predominantly in any one region.

Lugovoi last month told Izvestia that the bill would help create conditions for the development of online audiovisual services in Russia, where were becoming increasingly popular, offering support for local players. Lugovoi said that protecting the homegrown industry was necessary because western competitors were currently at a more advanced stage of development.