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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

City Moves to Rein in Cable Television

The Moscow government is planning to tighten regulation of the city's nearly 200 cable television stations and gain access to their air time, according to a mayoral spokesman.

Vadim Pekleshev, head of the city's press and television department, said recently that the City Duma will discuss legislation next month that would force cable stations to acquire a license from the Moscow government and give authorities air time.

Around 200 cable television stations currently broadcast in Moscow to an audience of some 3 million, according to Alexei Popov, general director of Mostelekom, a city-owned company that controls the capital's cable network.

Under the draft law, a Cable Television Center would be formed that would draw up guidelines for the conduct of cable stations and issue licenses to them.

"If a studio does not fulfill our demands, we will be able to take a license away," Peklashev said.

Cable stations are currently unregulated, according to Pekleshev, who could not say how much a license would cost.

Mostelekom's Popov said that cable stations are currently using free-of-charge a network worth some 150 billion rubles ($70 million) that was created by the city to improve reception of regular television in parts of the capital. If the Duma passes the legislation Mostelekom will charge studios 100 to 500 rubles a month per subscriber for broadcasting via its network, he said.

Pekleshev said city hall wants to broadcast its programs on cable television because declining newspaper circulation had reduced the city authorities' ability to promote their point of view.

"Cable television is a powerful means of reaching a vast number of Muscovites and we will use it," Peklashev said. "If we do something good, we want people to know about it. The country should know its heroes."

Cable stations, however, warn that they could face bankruptcy and lose their independence if the mayor's proposals are implemented.

"They want to take a full control over us," said Alexander Pushkov, director of the Mars cable station in southwest Moscow, which has 60,000 subscribers. "We pay for taxes 80 percent of our profit as a private firm, and they want to charge us more."Boris Pazhetkov, vice president of the Moscow association of cable studios, said he feared the Cable Television Center would become another layer of bureaucracy the studios would have to finance.

"We have nothing against giving air time to the city government," he said. "But we don't want them to bankrupt us and place us under their authority."