It’s not often you see a country’s richest individual relinquish control of one of its leading media groups.
And yet that is precisely what happened this week in Ukraine, when Rinat Akhmetov announced that his investment company SCM would effectively hand over Media Group Ukraine (MGU) and its other media assets to the state. This was certainly no act of charity, but, in Akhmetov’s own words, “dictated by the entry into force of the law On prevention of threats to national security associated with excessive influence of persons who have significant economic and political weight in public life (oligarchs)”.
Perhaps not surprisingly, Akhemetov denied that he was an oligarch. He also stressed that he was the largest private investor in Ukraine and criticised the six-month deadline set by the law for the sale of media assets as being too short.
Clearly Akhemetov felt it would make more sense to surrender MGU and his other media assets then sell them for an unrealistically low price. In the case of MGU, they include no fewer than four national TV channels – Ukraina, Ukraina 24, NLO TV and Indigo TV – as well as three thematic services (Futbol 1, 2 and 3), the DTH platform Xtra TV and OTT service Oll.TV.
What now happens to these assets remains to be seen. In the case of the four national TV channels, their future will in all likelihood be decided by the Ukrainian regulator National Council, quite possible through a licence competition. Given their popularity, this would undoubtedly attract strong interest.
The football channels, on the other hand, may not prove so attractive to any potential buyer as they are probably unprofitable, while Xtra TV and Oll.TV could possibly by acquired by any of Ukraine’s other leading media groups.
This is of course all speculation, and a clearer picture will emerge once the war is over.
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