CNN Goes Back on Russian Air Despite Putin’s Media Clampdown

CNN International went back on air in Russia Wednesday after pulling the plug late last year because of concerns about new laws restricting ads and foreign ownership of media in the country.

The news channel, owned by Turner Broadcasting System Inc., a subsidiary of Time Warner Inc., has returned to the Russian airwaves ad-free and is “evaluating solutions to ensure we comply” with laws that take effect next year, a Turner spokesman said Wednesday.

CNN had said on Nov. 12 that the “raft of new laws make life increasingly difficult for independent media,” as President Vladimir Putin tightens his grip on foreign media in the country amid tensions with the West. NBC Universal, another U.S. broadcaster, said earlier this year it was shutting its Russian pay-TV business, citing the challenging economy.

Putin banned advertising on pay-TV channels from this year and signed a law preventing foreign companies from owning more than 20 percent of media outlets from 2016.

Walt Disney Co. said in February that because of the new restrictions it may have to write off as much as $300m it spent to acquire 49 percent of Seven TV, a free-to-air channel in Russia.

CTC Media Inc., a Russian broadcaster co-owned by Sweden’s Modern Times Group AB, is studying options to comply with the new regime, which include restructuring and divestments, according to a statement in March. Its shares have plunged 48 percent over the past 12 months.

CNN didn’t have its own license in Russia previously and was distributed by its local partner NTV-Plus, according to the country’s communications regulator Roskomnadzor. It applied for a license and received it, said Roskomnadzor spokesman Vadim Ampelonskiy.

The news channel has been in Russia for 21 years and its Moscow editorial bureau remained open during the recent shutdown.

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