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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Norwegians Place Their Hopes on KP

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Email the Opinion Page Editor

Last week was pretty disappointing. I was interviewed about the Media-MOST affair just two times.

You see, the last few months have been something of a feast for me and my fellow vultures gathered around on various sides of the still-warm corpse.

Our profound analyses were quoted in the leading papers of the world, and our voices — defending or criticizing the empire of Vladimir Gusinsky — were broadcast over the airwaves of global radio stations. Our faces became familiar to television viewers around the world. Our opinions were sought out by ambassadors and third-secretaries of countless embassies; foreign delegations queued up to meet with us.

Some of us even gave fiery speeches at demonstrations.

My humble efforts finally even attracted the attention of The Exile, which practically branded me a Kremlin mouthpiece and the spiritual godfather of Gleb Pavlovsky himself.

In short, we media analysts had begun to think that the good times would never end. And now, suddenly, two pathetic interviews over a whole five working days!

Does that mean that now we have to get back to work?

And so, back to work. Last week I interviewed Reidar Karlsen, managing director of A-pressen Russian Media AS, for my magazine, Sreda. A-pressen publishes 58 local newspapers in Norway, the country that happens to lead the world in overall newspaper readership. Since late 1999, A-pressen has opened newspaper printing companies in Yekaterinburg and Nizhny Novgorod, and it is presently building two more in Samara and Novosibirsk. The company also purchased stakes in the newspapers Nizhegorodsky Rabochy in Nizhny Novgorod and Peterburg Ekspress in St. Petersburg. Further, they have acquired an option to purchase 25 percent plus one share of the national daily Komsomolskaya Pravda. Surprisingly, these investments in Russia are A-pressen's very first forays into foreign investment.

I remarked to Karlsen that most foreigners investing in Russia have chosen to create local versions of foreign brand-name publications and wondered why A-pressen had instead chosen to invest directly in Russian publications.

"Our business is daily newspapers in the regions," he replied. "Why we do it? First of all, this is what we think we know about; at least we have our Norwegian experience. Second, we think there is potential in the Russian regions for developing daily independent newspapers in the future. We think there is commercial space for these kind of newspapers. We know it will take some time because there are many newspapers in the regions financed by industry, financed by political parties. But I think, in the long run, independent, trustworthy newspapers will grow in circulation and position."

Next I asked Karlsen's opinion about the draft law limiting foreign ownership of Russian media that is presently being considered by the State Duma.

"We have limitation also in Norway saying that one group of the media should not be in control of more than one-third of the total market in special regions," he responded. "So this is no new challenge for us. We have our attitudes toward newspapers that they should be controlled by our Russian partners because we are doing newspapers in Russia, for people in Russia, and at this stage at least, we think we should be minority owners. But in the printing houses, we should be majority owners because we know the printing business, and the printing business in Russia is the same as anywhere else."

Karlsen emphasized that A-pressen's future plans in Russia depend primarily on the success of its partnership with Komsomolskaya Pravda. Please, KP, don't let us down.

Alexei Pankin is editor of Sreda, a magazine for media professionals (www.internews.ru/sreda).