Media

Regulatory and institutional structure

Summarise the regulatory framework for the media sector in your jurisdiction.

The key law regulating the media sector in Russia is Law of the Russian Federation No. 2124-1 On Mass Media of 27December 1991 (the Mass Media Law).

Specific content requirements for mass media can also be found in other laws including:

  • Federal Law No. 436-FZ On Protection of Children from Information Harmful to Their Health and Development of 29 December 2010 (the Child Protection Law);
  • Federal Law No. 15-FZ On Protection of Health Against Tobacco Smoke and Consequences of Tobacco Consumption of 23 February 2013 (the Anti-Tobacco Law);
  • Federal Law on Information, Information Technologies, and Information Protection, No. 149 dated 27 July 2006 (the Information Law); and
  • Federal Law No. 38-FZ On Advertising of 13 March 2006 (the Advertising Law).

 

The principal state authority responsible for developing and implementing national policy and regulation for telecommunications, mass media, IT and postal services is Minkomsvyaz, with three subordinate government agencies:

  • Roskomnadzor, responsible for the state control and supervision of compliance with Russian laws on mass media, telecommunications, and personal data processing;
  • the Federal Agency for Press and Mass Communications, responsible for the management of state property in the press and other media sectors; and
  • Rossvyaz, responsible for the management of state property and law enforcement functions in the field of communication and information, including construction, development, and utilisation of communication networks, satellite systems, TV and radio broadcasting systems.
Ownership restrictions

Do any foreign ownership restrictions apply to media services? Is the ownership or control of broadcasters otherwise restricted? Are there any regulations in relation to the cross-ownership of media companies, including radio, television and newspapers?

Effective from 1 January 2016, foreign ownership restrictions have been introduced to the Mass Media Law, as follows:

  • a foreign legal entity, foreign citizen or Russian company with foreign participation is banned (along with certain other persons and entities) from serving individually or jointly as the founder or ‘participant’ of any mass media organisation, or acting as the editor-in-chief of such an organisation or as a broadcaster;
  • a foreign legal entity, foreign citizen or Russian company with more than 20 per cent foreign participation (along with certain other persons and entities) may not own, manage or control, directly or indirectly more than 20 per cent of a shareholder or participant of a founder, editor or broadcaster; and
  • ‘any other forms of control’ of foreign entities and individuals over mass media organisation are also prohibited.

 

These restrictions are vaguely drafted and subject to conflicting interpretations. For example, in January 2019 the Russian Federation Constitutional Court ruled that certain parts of article 19.1 are not constitutional and directed to amend the Mass Media Law to remove the ambiguity. The subject matter of the amendments is to provide clarity on certain terms used in article 19.1 and to address how investors can enjoy certain corporate rights within the permitted 20 per cent limit. It is likely that the Mass Media Law will be amended to address this ruling.

Additional restrictions apply to certain ‘strategic’ media companies. Pursuant to the Foreign Strategic Investments Law, the following activities are considered strategic:

  • TV and radio broadcasting on the territories that cover 50 per cent and more of the population of the Russian Federation subject;
  • acting as an editor, publisher or founder of printed mass media if the aggregate circulation per year is not less than 15 million copies for editions published two and more times a week, 2.5 million copies for editions published once a week, once in two or three weeks, 700,000 copies for editions published once or twice a month, and 300,000 copies for editions published once a quarter and less frequently; and
  • foreign investments in companies exercising the above strategic activities that lead to establishing control over such companies are subject to certain restrictions, including the requirement to obtain an approval of the government commission.

 

Separate foreign ownership restrictions have recently been adopted for certain specific media services – for example, for an audiovisual service owner.

In addition, under Federal Law No. 160-FZ On Foreign Investments in the Russian Federation of 9 July 1997 and the Foreign Strategic Investments Law, the head of the government commission has the authority and discretion to order that any foreign investment with respect to any Russian company (ie, not necessarily a strategic company) should be cleared by the government commission.

Further, in November 2017, the Information Law was amended to extend to media organisations certain restrictiveregulation on the ‘foreign agents’ that were initially designed to apply to nonprofits who receive financing from foreign sources and engage in political activity in Russia. In particular, foreign agent mass media must include a special disclaimer in every publication or post identifying their status as foreign agents. In addition, they must keep separate accounts for funds and property received from foreign sources, submit quarterly reports on the sources of financing to the Russian Ministry of Justice, and publish activity reports in Russia semi-annually. The Russian Ministry of Justice keeps the register of foreign agent mass media, and the register is available at http://minjust.ru/ru/deyatelnost-v-sfere-nekommercheskih-organizaciy/reestr-inostrannyh-sredstv-massovoy-informacii.

Licensing requirements

What are the licensing requirements for broadcasting, including the fees payable and the timescale for the necessary authorisations?

In general, broadcasting using traditional technologies (free-to-air, cable, satellite) usually involves obtaining the following permissions from state authorities:

  • a mass media registration;
  • a broadcasting licence; and
  • a communication services licence (not required if the broadcaster has an agreement with a licensed communication services provider).

 

Mass media registration is granted by Roskomnadzor to a mass media founder within a month of filing the application.

Broadcasting licences are granted by Roskomnadzor as well. Broadcasting licences are divided into two major types: a universal licence that can be granted to the editor of a TV or radio channel, and allows broadcasting in all media in the whole territory of Russia; and a broadcasting licence that is granted to entities that are not editors of TV or radio channels, for broadcasting in specific media (eg, cable, terrestrial or satellite). In the case of free-to-air or satellite broadcasting, the applicant must also obtain the right to use specific broadcasting frequency. As a general rule, frequencies are allocated through a public tender by the Federal Tender Commission for TV and Radio Broadcasting.

Broadcasting licences are granted for 10 years.

Foreign programmes and local content requirements

Are there any regulations concerning the broadcasting of foreign-produced programmes? Do the rules require a minimum amount of local content? What types of media fall outside this regime?

Generally, the Mass Media Law guarantees unrestricted access to the information and materials of foreign mass media to Russian citizens. However, distribution of foreign TV and radio channels (as well as other mass media) and content is permitted only upon registration of mass media in Russia. Distribution of foreign printed media not registered in Russia requires a permit from Roskomnadzor. The Russian advertising laws also have an exemption from the general advertising ban for pay-TV channels; such exemption is available to cable channels with primarily local content.

Advertising

How is broadcast media advertising regulated? Is online advertising subject to the same regulation?

The principal law regulating broadcast media advertising is the Advertising Law. The Advertising Law contains certain restrictions and limitations for broadcast media advertising.

 

Restrictions for paid channels

Effective from 1 January 2015, advertising on TV programmes or in broadcasts on TV channels that are accessed exclusively on a paid basis or with the use of technical decoding devices is not permitted. The following channels are exempt from this restriction: Russian national ‘must-carry’ free television channels; TV channels broadcast in Russia by terrestrial transmission using limited frequency resources; or TV channels transmitting not less than 75 per cent of local content.

 

Time limitations

The general time limitations for advertising air time are as follows:

  • air time devoted to advertising should not exceed 20 per cent of the overall air time per hour and 15 per cent of the overall air time per day;
  • advertising should not exceed four minutes per occurrence; and
  • advertising may not be aired during religious programmes or programmes of less than 15 minutes.

 

Each interruption of a programme or broadcasting by advertising should be made with advance notice.

 

Restrictions on advertising for certain types of goods

The Advertising Law generally prohibits advertising of drugs, weapons, tobacco, tobacco goods, and smoking-related equipment, and certain other goods. The advertising of alcohol products is specifically prohibited for printed media, internet and broadcasting on TV channels, save for certain exceptions, including advertising of beer and related beverages during sport live broadcasts or records, and of Russian wine.

There are also rules and restrictions applicable to the advertising of certain other goods. For instance, advertising of medicines and medical services, including methods of treatment, should contain warnings regarding contraindications, as well as the need to read instructions and seek advice from specialists. These notices should be broadcast for at least five seconds and should cover at least 7 per cent of the picture area.

There are also special restriction of the advertising of certain types of goods in children's programming, such as advertising of alcoholic products, medicines and medical services, including methods of treatment, military products and weapons, risk-based games, bets, and others.

Must-carry obligations

Are there regulations specifying a basic package of programmes that must be carried by operators’ broadcasting distribution networks? Is there a mechanism for financing the costs of such obligations?

Under the Communications Law, each TV communication services operator must broadcast must-carry channels to its subscribers for free. The list of must-carry channels includes:

  • all-Russian TV and radio must-carry channels listed in Presidential Decree No. 715 dated 24 June 2009. Currently, the list includes 10 TV channels: Channel 1, Russia-1, Match TV, NTV, Peterburg-5 Channel, Russia-Kultura, Russia-24, Karusel, OTR and TV Center-Moscow; and three radio channels: Vesti FM, Mayak and Radio Rossii;
  • must-carry channels of the constituent territories of the Russian Federation; 
  • municipal must-carry channels; and
  • TV channels that have obtained the right to carry out terrestrial broadcasting using positions in multiplexes.Currently, there are 10 TV channels that have obtained the right to carry out terrestrial broadcasting using positions in multiplexes.
Regulation of new media content

Is new media content and its delivery regulated differently from traditional broadcast media? How?

Russian law currently does not provide for a specific regulation applicable to new media content or online (internet) TV broadcasting. Arguably, the existing Mass Media Law definitions of a ‘TV channel’ and a ‘TV programme’ are broad enough to apply to TV content broadcast online. However, as a matter of practice, in general, online broadcast is currently permitted without licence.

The rules on content applicable to traditional broadcast media would apply to online broadcast in most instances. There are recent new laws related to different aspects of new media content. For example, effective from 1 July 2017, the Information Law has been amended to include a concept of an ‘audiovisual service owner’ (AS owner). In essence, an audiovisual service is a website, webpage, IT system and or software that is used to form or organise internet distribution of a ‘collection of audiovisual works’ (eg, video on demand service providers). An AS owner must, among other things, comply with the Mass Media Law requirements and restrictions on the dissemination of information. The new regulation also provides for foreign ownership restrictions with respect to AS owners: foreign states, international organisations, foreign entities, Russian entities with more than 20 per cent foreign shareholding, foreign citizens, Russian citizens with double citizenship and their affiliates that operate international audiovisual services (ie, with more than 50 per cent users located outside of Russia) are not allowed to directly or indirectly control more than 20 per cent of an AS owner.

Digital switchover

When is the switchover from analogue to digital broadcasting required or when did it occur? How will radio frequencies freed up by the switchover be reallocated?

The Russian switchover from analogue to digital broadcasting started in 2009. The switchover of 20 federal must-carry channels to digital broadcasting was completed in October 2019. The switchover of regional channels is pending.

There is no specific plan of reallocation of the radio frequencies freed up by the switchover. Under the existing regulation, the particular radio frequencies capacities for terrestrial and satellite broadcasting can be allocated via tenders pursuant to Government Decree No. 25 of 26 January 2012. Pursuant to Government Decree No. 336 of 2 July 2004, radio frequencies bands may be reallocated by a decision of the Radio Frequencies Commission. If a band reallocation involves changing the band purpose from terrestrial broadcasting to another type of broadcasting, it will require the prior consent of the broadcasters of must-carry channels as well as of the broadcasters that have air terrestrial broadcasting licences for this band.

Digital formats

Does regulation restrict how broadcasters can use their spectrum?

Currently, there is no specific regulation restricting spectrum use by broadcasters (such as multi-channelling, high definition, and data services), other than restrictions provided in the broadcasting and communication licences, licensing requirements and decisions on the allocation of RFs (as the case may be), or arising from the must-carry obligations.

Media plurality

Is there any process for assessing or regulating media plurality (or a similar concept) in your jurisdiction? May the authorities require companies to take any steps as a result of such an assessment?

There is no specific regulation or promotion of media plurality in Russia. But the Mass Media Law provides that mass media organisations must not be restricted in Russia other than in cases provided by the Russian mass media legislation. Generally speaking, subject to foreign ownership restrictions described in question 18 and other restrictions in the Mass Media Law and other laws and, in many instances, registration requirements, Russia allows mass media in any form. The Mass Media Law also provides that the search, production and distribution of information cannot be restricted other than in cases provided by law (such cases include terrorist and extremist materials, propagation of violence, pornography, etc).

Key trends and expected changes

Provide a summary of key emerging trends and hot topics in media regulation in your country.

The three key trends are as follows. Firstly, the emerging of new types of media and internet services (online and electronic newspapers, blogs, social media, messaging apps, aggregators and services) that fall outside of traditional regulation attract attention from the government. This results in new regulation affecting these new types of media and services. For example, following the adoption of special regulation on VPNs, messengers and online cinemas in 2017, in 2018 Russia introduced special rules for ecommerce platforms that aggregate information from online shops and service providers. In March 2019, Russia changed its Civil Code to include ‘digital rights’, and further laws regulating activities in this field are pending.

Secondly, Russia continues to strengthen the governmental control in the cyberspace to combat cybercrime. This resulted in adoption of Federal Law No. 187-FZ of 26 July 2017 On the Security of Critical Information Infrastructure of the Russian Federation in effect from 1 January 2018. Further, Federal Law No. 90-FZ of 1 May 2019 introduced a set of amendments to the Information Law, which are colloquially referred to as the ‘sovereign runet law’ or the ‘law on the secured internet’. These amendments allow the government to restrict access to the internet and to control internet traffic in emergency situations. Starting 1 January 2018, messenger operators must run mandatory identification of users that could be done using subscribers’ phone numbers. 

Thirdly, Russia continues to strengthen control over information posted online to prevent dissemination of information it deems harmful or illegal. For example, under Federal Law No. 31 of 18 March 2019, online media and communications services providers are required to prevent distribution of ‘fake news’. Fake news is broadly defined as any unverified information that threatens someone’s life or health or property, public peace or security, or threatens to interfere or disrupt critical infrastructure, transport or public services, banks, communication lines and facilities, power and industrial facilities. Owing to the covid-19 situation, Federal Law No. 99 of 1 April 2020 introduced separate liability for the distribution of ‘fake news’ related to the: 

  • circumstances threatening life and safety of citizens;
  • measures that are taken to ensure the public safety; and 
  • methods of counteracting these threatening circumstances.

 

Also, Federal Law No. 30-FZ dated 18 March 2019 enabled Roskomnadzor to require deleting information that shows disrespect to Russian governmental authorities, state symbols, or Russian society, and to block noncompliant resources.

Law stated date

Correct on

Give the date on which the information above is accurate.

3 April 2020