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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Foreign Media Giant Awaits TV Fate


MT

Press Minister Mikhail Lesin

Sweden's Modern Times Group on Wednesday will find out whether it will remain the only wholly foreign-owned media company with a Russian broadcasting license.

The Press Ministry put the package of frequencies currently held by DTV, a second-tier television network bought by MTG last year, up for grabs because of the channel's failure to fulfill the terms of its 1997 license, including failing to start broadcasting in all the regions it was obliged to.

A concept tender was called and a ministry-appointed commission on Wednesday will select the winner, who will have to pay a symbolic $1 million for the license.

DTV is pitted against two Russian TV production giants -- VID, which has strong links with Channel One, the nation's leading station, and ATV, which for years has been trying to get its own frequencies without success.

Other bidders include Internet holding Rambler, which wants to create an interactive educational network; Novy Televizionny Proyekt, which is controlled by Alexander Akopov, a former director of No. 2 network RTR; and eccentric adventurer Andrei Martynov's little-known Neizvestnaya Planeta.

Although Press Minister Mikhail Lesin has said that "no one deliberately wants to take DTV's frequency away," past tenders, such as the one for TV6 in March, have been politically charged and MTG is taking nothing for granted.

"Other foreign investors will be watching and will be surprised if we lose the company," said Kaj Gradevik, head of negotiations at MTG.

DTV, which has no original programming of its own, submitted a new concept for the channel called "a system of specialized television," which will focus on a different subject each day of the week.

"It will be a free alternative to pay TV," said Irina Gofman, vice president of MTG Russia. The company plans to invest another $31 million on top of the $9 million it has already invested if it wins.

Its top competitor, conservative Channel One, has long wanted an experimental channel to target well-educated viewers, a market segment currently dominated by NTV.

VID, on the other hand, says it has $50 million from an unnamed energy company to invest if it wins.

"Our investor does not position itself politically and doesn't need an instrument of influence," VID deputy director Alexander Kessel told Kommersant earlier this week.

Contest commission member Manana Aslamazyan said Tuesday that DTV has a slight advantage because it is already broadcasting, and that one of her criteria is how transparent the bids are regarding sources of funding.

The nine-member commission includes five state officials, including Lesin.