The French broadcasting regulatory authority ARCOM has been asked to stop Eutelsat distributing Russia’s three leading TV channels.
This follows a detailed report prepared by the Denis Diderot Committee that claims to demonstrate “the depth of Eutelsat S.A.’s collaboration with the main players in the satellite and audiovisual system of the Russian Federation”.
The report pulls no punches and provides a comprehensive overview of Eutelsat’s involvement in Russia and the Russian TV industry in general.
Although it is clearly impossible to summarise its 266 pages in detail, here is a brief overview.
Firstly, the report says that the Russian satellite operator RSCC holds a 3.4% stake in Eutelsat S.A. and one of its representatives sits on the management board. For its part, Eutelsat leases four satellites belonging to RSCC and presents them as part of its own fleet.
Legislation dating back to 1986 implies that ARCOM has jurisdiction over non-European TV channels through satellite capabilities from France.
However, there is a lack of transparency when it comes to the frequency plans of the satellites in Eutelsat’s fleet.
Eutelsat has sought to downplay the number and significance of the channels it distributes in Russia. In the report’s view, by doing so it “aims primarily to respond to commercial and industrial interests instead of legal and contractual obligations”. The latter include compliance with the Eutelsat IGO Convention, the European Convention on Transfrontier Television and the 1986 legislation.
The report goes on to outline developments in Russia’s TV industry in recent years, including controls on foreign owned media, the notion of “foreign agent” in legislation and limits on media in times of war. It also discusses the importance of talk shows in “staging a semblance of political debate” and the impact of audience fragmentation on propaganda”.
It then discusses the strengthening of Eutelsat’s partnerships with various Russian companies including NTV-Plus, Trikolor and Roscosmos, in recent years and argues that the intergovernmental Eutelsat IGO could take decisions to end Eutelsat’s collaboration with these companies.
In its conclusions, the report says that contrary to a superficial analysis, and the views of such diverse characters as Alexei Navalny, leader of the Russian opposition, and Eva Berneke, the head of Eutelsat, TV remains the dominant medium in Russian society and much more influential than the internet and social media. For this reason alone, it is an “absolute priority” and an “essential step” for Eutelsat to stop distributing the country’s three leading TV channels.
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