Bill banning foreign ownership of news aggregators passes 1st Duma reading
MOSCOW. Dec 18 (Interfax) - A bill restricting foreign states' and international organizations' right to own news aggregators has passed its first reading in the State Duma.
The bill was proposed by a group of deputies - Anton Gorelkin, Andrei Lugovoi, Mikhail Starshinov, and Boris Paikin - on October 22.
The bill would prohibit a foreign state, an international organization or its affiliate, a foreign legal entity, a Russian legal entity with foreign participation, a foreign citizen, a non-citizen, or a Russian Federation citizen with dual citizenship, whether together or alone, from acting as the owner of a news aggregator.
Furthermore, a foreign state, an international organization or its affiliate, a foreign legal entity, a Russian legal entity over 20% of which is foreign-owned, a foreign citizen, a non-citizen, or a Russian Federation citizen with dual citizenship, would not be allowed to own, manage, or control a news aggregator, directly or indirectly (including through affiliates or through ownership of a combined 20% share in the authorized capital of an entity), whether together or alone.
The proposed restrictions are similar to the ones that have applied to media outlets since 2016, a memo to the bill says. Failure to comply with the requirements proposed by the bill would be penalized by a court-ordered restriction of access to the news aggregator in Russia.
Commenting on the bill, Leonid Levin, head of the state Duma Committee on Information Policy, Information Technologies and Communication, said last Thursday that the issue of restricted access to news aggregators may need further amendment by its second reading.
The government's envoy to the State Duma, Alexander Sinenko, concurred with him.
At present, the telecommunications watchdog Roskomnadzor has four news aggregators on its register: Novosti-mail.ru (Mail.Ru limited liability company), SMI2 (SMI2 LLC), Yandex.Novosti (Yandex LLC) and Rambler/novosti (Rambler Internet Holding LLC). Google News is not on the register because its hit rate is below the statutory minimum of one million visitors per day.
Yandex LLC is fully owned by the Dutch-based Yandex N.V. whose main shareholder is Arkady Volozh owning 10% of the capital, or 49% voting shares.
Rambler Internet Holding LLC is fully owned by the Cyprus-based Tekso Holdings Ltd. (according to SPARK-Interfax). Mail.Ru LLC is owned by Mail.Ru Group's Cyprus-based offshore firms. It floats 50% of its shares, 28% is owned by the South African holding company Naspers, and 7% by the Chinese IT company Tensent. The remaining 15% is owned by the Russian firms MF Holding and Megafon.
SMI2 LLC (according to SPARK-Internet) is owned by the Russian limited liability company Internet-Holding E-generator, owned by Finam Company LTD BVI (40%) and Russians.
Google, a section of which is the Google News service, is owned by the U.S. company Google, a business unit of the U.S. conglomerate Alphabet.
The "On information" law 149-FZ requires the four registered news aggregators to verify disseminated information (except information from registered media outlets and from government bodies) and store it and data on its source for six months.