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First deputy minister of culture and mass communications of Russia Leonid Nadirov (on the left) and head of Federal Press and Information Agency of Russia Mikhail Seslavinsky (on the right).
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Apr. 09, 2004
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Media Licensing Will Be Eased, but Not for Long
// Until a Special Federal Service is Set Up
Information Policy
The Ministry of Culture and Information will deal with licensing issues in the areas of culture and mass media until existing legislation is amended. This is contained in a government decree signed yesterday by Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov. However, it is not inconceivable that over time, licensing issues will move to the jurisdiction of a special structure that will receive the status of a federal service or department of the Ministry of Culture and Information.
Immediately after the abolition of the Ministry of the Press, Television and Radio Broadcasting, and Mass Communications (Ministry of the Press), a dispute flared up between the newly created Ministry of Culture and Information (Ministry of Culture) and the Federal Press and Information Agency (FAPMK) over which department would be responsible for licensing, the media market's most vital issue. Until recently, the Federal Competition Commission (FKK) was involved in issuing licenses for television and radio frequencies, as well as in extending existing licenses. The commission consisted of four representatives from the Ministry of the Press headed by Mikhail Lesin, former minister of communications Leonid Reiman, and four private-sector representatives, including president of the Russian Television Academy, Vladimir Pozner, and general manager of the nonprofit organization Internews, Manana Aslamazyan.

After the abolition of the Ministry of the Press, the Ministry of Culture's new leadership, represented by First Deputy Minister Leonid Nadirov, announced that responsibility for licensing issues would be turned over to the ministry. The head of FAPMK, former First Deputy Minister of the Press Mikhail Seslavinsky disagreed with Mr. Nadirov's position, which he talked about in an interview with Kommersant (see the issue of March 22). In particular, Mr. Seslavinsky argued that the new ministry had neither the staff nor the specialists to solve a problem as important as media licensing. However, Mr. Nadirov won a bureaucratic victory in this dispute. According to Kommersant's information, he personally drew up a provision on the ministry's licensing authority and got it approved by the head of the government staff, Dmitry Kozak, who is an old friend of Mr. Nadirov. It was Mr. Kozak who offered the former rector of Vaganovskoe School a job in the ministry.

In a conversation with the Kommersant correspondent on April 5, Mr. Nadirov confirmed that creating a structure to deal with licensing issues was one of the ministry's priorities. In his words, the Ministry of Culture would present the government with an initiative for setting up a special federal licensing service; and this structure, along with three other federal agencies, should be under the jurisdiction of the new ministry. Moreover, Mr. Nadirov stressed that the proposed service (or special licensing department of the ministry) would concern itself not only with licensing the media, but also activities related to the restoration of cultural heritage sites.

Leonid Nadirov confirmed that he would like to see some of the representatives of the former FKK on this commission, including Vladimir Pozner. In addition, he is planning to recruit State Duma deputies (he mentioned Boris Resnik in particular), who have connections with the media through their activities: for example, he might recruit deputies from among those who know about this delicate issue. Mr. Nadirov has so far refused to discuss who might head the proposed new structure, but has emphasized that this person may not necessarily be a media representative, but rather someone with management experience and strong managerial qualities, for example. The most important qualities for this kind of manager are honesty, integrity, and purity, Mr. Nadirov said. There is no doubt that this structure under the Ministry of Culture and its head will become one of the most influential players on the media market. The ministry's leaders maintain that they understand the importance of this field very well and plan to consult with major media structures, especially the National Association of Television and Radio Broadcasters, and the management of Channel One (Pervy Kanal) and the All-Russian State Television and Radio Company (VGTRK).

However, the final status of this new structure will not be known for at least a month. Meanwhile, Vladimir Pozner said yesterday that he considers it advisable to make the FKK an independent structure. Our commission has to be turned into a completely independent group, not connected either with the ministry, the leading television stations, or large advertisers; this would be to the benefit of the media community, Mr. Pozner said in an interview with Interfax. In his opinion, if the competition commission is made up only of professionals and constitutes an independent unit, there will be an end to talk about the interest of its members in decision-making. In turn, Mikhail Seslavinsky told Kommersant yesterday that, After this decision is made, the agency's role as I see it is to make the process of transferring licensing functions painless for the market. I hope that the fundamental approaches relating to the openness of these procedures and the principles of competition when holding tenders will be preserved and that government policy in this area is directed at further liberalization of the media market. We will try to facilitate this. We hope that most of the licensing department of the former Ministry of the press will be transferred to the structure of the new Ministry of Culture and Information.

Arina Borodina

All the Article in Russian as of Apr. 08, 2004

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