Russia seeks to mitigate effects of ad ban on local channels

Russian free-to-air channels that are advertising supported could be given must-carry status on regional cable networks and satellite platforms, under a new plan hatched by the country’s communications ministry.

The move follows the recent passing of an amendment to the country’s law on advertising banning pay TV channels from carrying ads. Under the new rules, all channels that are available exclusively on a pay basis, as well as those that can only be accessed using a TV decoder are included in the ad-ban, with the exception of national state-controlled channels.

Deputy head of the ministry of communications Alexey Volin told business daily Kommersant that ad-supported channels that are free to subscribers should be guaranteed distribution at least in the Russian regions outside Moscow.

Volin said that the ministry planned to ban agreements where channels are charged for carriage, as well as arrangements where channels that carry advertising receive carriage fees – the model covered by the new amendment.

Volin told Kommersant that the guaranteed carriage arrangements are designed to give some protection to regional channels and channels that are part of the country’s second digital-terrestrial multiplex – namely Ren TV, CTC, Domashniy, Sport+, Zvezda, TNT, Muz TV, Spas and TV3.

Until now must-carry status has been extended only to the 10 national channels in the first multiple, including Perviyy Kanal, NTV and RTR.

Pay TV channels will be forbidden from carrying advertising in Russia from next year, bringing to an end a business reportedly valued at RUB4 billion in 2013.