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Television Stations Rooted Beyond Moldova. The Chaika Case and BC’s Intention to Limit the Equity Participation of Foreigners in Radio and TV – Analysed by Experts

15 January 2020
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The founders of at least seven TV stations licensed to broadcast in the Republic of Moldova, one of them having high audience rates, include foreign individuals or legal entities. Media Azi looked into this following the announcement made by the Broadcasting Council that it will demand the retraction of foreigners’ right to own control stock in TV and radio stations. Some experts believe, though, that the solution the BC came up with is not enough to protect the information space. Foreign investments in mass-media development must be encouraged, but mechanisms to check where the money is coming from are also needed, specialists say.
 
Some of the founders of a few Moldovan TV stations are Russian nationals. For instance, half of the shares of TV-Comunicatii Grup, owning RTR Moldova, belongs to an organisation managing mass-media projects (Российское общество по организации и управлению проектами в области СМИ и Массовых Коммуникаций – Russian Society Organising and Managing Mass-media and Mass Communication Projects). According to Russian registers, this entity is owned by the public Russian TV and radio company (VGTRK), which is controlled by the Government, and Sberbank and Vneshekonombank banks from Russia. The other half of shares of TV-Comunicatii Grup is divided between SB Grup Media SRL based in Chisinau (25%) – owned by Moldovan nationals, and Valentina Stetco (25%) who has allegedly a brother, named Anatolii Kucherena, in close attendance on the Russian President Vladimir Putin.

At the end of the last year, the son of Russia’s Prosecutor General – Igor Chaika – acquired 51% of shares and became thus the co-owner of Media Invest Service – a company that is based in Moscow while being the founder of Telesistem TV in Chisinau and that manages Primul in Moldova and Accent TV channels.

 

Pro TV Chisinau has foreign owners, too. The broadcast license belongs to the company with foreign capital PRO Digital SRL. The company was founded by CME Media Enterprises, part of a chain of companies with connections in the islands of Bermuda and Curacao. In October 2019, CME was acquired by the international investment fund PPF Group N.V., headquartered in the Netherlands and owned by Czech billionaire Petr Kellner.
 
Jurnal TV belongs to Reforma ART SRL. According to the State Register, the founder of the company is the German company GT NEWS MEDIA GMBH, wholly owned by the businessman Victor Topa. TVR MOLDOVA is the channel of the Romanian Television Society in the Republic of Moldova, founded by the Romanian Television Society (100%), which is a Romanian public institution. 

Other TV channels with foreign shareholders include MBC – the broadcast license belonging to the company SG Media M1 SRL. It is owned by Akhundzada Seymur Ilham Oglu from Azerbaijan (50%) and by Steaua-Grup SRL (50%). The latter belongs to the family of the businessman Valeriu Pleșca, former Minister of Defense, as well as to Capital Investments Group LLC, USA.
 
 

The law doesn’t prohibit foreigners from holding equity shares in Moldovan TV stations. „Provided that these persons are not politically engaged and are not public persons”, President of BC, Dragos Vicol, specified. Furthermore, Tatiana Puiu, representative of Freedom House in Moldova, said that putting an airtight seal against foreign investors on the Moldovan media market is impossible. “Not even the Information Security Strategy identifies the access of foreign investors to the media market as a risk”, said the jurist.

She believes that there should be some mechanisms in place though to check the origin of investments. Ion Bunduchi, CEO of the Electronic Press Association (APEL) shares this opinion and went on to add that the BC has the responsibility to oversee the media sector. „We want foreign investments into the development of mass-media here. We’d like investments from the West as they have proven their effect on the development of democratic journalism in several countries. But they do not come because the market is not attractive”, Bunduchi explained.
 
Modernization Versus Risks to Information Security
 
Ion Bunduchi flagged a potential danger linked to the investments from the East into mass-media. „It is known that the Eastern mass-media puts stress on the ideological effect, while the Western mass-media – on the economic one”, he argued.

The jurist Tatiana Puiu brought forth a provision from the Information Security Strategy that draws attention to the concerns regarding the intensification of foreign attacks on security. The strategy also contains a statement of the Parliament condemning Russian attacks on national information security.
 
The media researcher Victor Gotisan said that our country was directly subject to propaganda and misinformation via the Russian media and didn't believe that people like Igor Chaika come to Moldova to modernize the mass-media: „The concentration of the media in the hands of some Russian citizens sends the sole message that the Russian Federation wants to control this strategic sector in Moldova directly without any intermediaries whatsoever”.  
 
Temporary Solutions
 
Considering current risks, media experts believe that taking away foreigners’ right to hold control stock in radio and TV stations is not enough.
 
„This is a solution, although Moldova seems to only take measures as response to events in the media sector. The big issue is that they try to tackle every challenge in the media sector via legislative initiatives, i.e. by passing laws meant to combat certain phenomena. This is not bad, but it is a way to catch up with events and solve issues on the fly. Until we understand that building a democratic and prosperous society requires fair and healthy mass-media, casting away dirty tricks, we will continue to be at the bottom of Europe and of the civilized world”, Gotisan concluded.

Photo source: Alfonso Diaz (Free Images)