Sunday, June 12, 2011

Digital broadcasting in Ukraine to be in hands of one oligarch?

Viktor Yanukovych is often described as a man of the oligarchs, steered into the presidency by a a handful of mainly Donbas-based oligarchs in order their corporate interests prevail above all else. Almost invariably, sell-off's of state assets, and the granting of contracts, tenders, licences etc. by the state takes place in a non-transparent, rigged manner for their benefit.

An article in the current 'Dzerkalo Tyzhnya' highlights yet another highly dubious scheme, this time involving Digital Terrestrial Television Broadcasting. The scheme will enable one media baron to control Ukraine's entire DTT network. Furthermore, all of the country's other television broadcasters, including small independents and those not completely subservient to the ruling authorities, will be in his thrall.

Below is a summary and loose translation of portions of the 'DzT' article:

"Whether we like it or not, the problem of digital TV will sooner or later affect most domestic TV viewers. On June 16, 2006, in Geneva, 104 states signed a regional agreement to upgrade to digital broadcasting.

According to this document, on June 17 2015, the transition period when both analogue and digital broadcasting co-exist, expires. After this all parties to the agreement (including Ukraine and its neighbors) cease broadcastsing on analogue TV frequencies and move to a digital format.

Mysterious digital overlord

From the very start, the development of digital broadcasting in Ukraine has taken place in the traditional sluggish manner, but in 2010 the tempo of progress radically changed.

In late October, the Ukrainian National Broadcasting Council abolished all its decisions taken in relation to digital broadcasting over the previous three years, and a few days later it announced a tender competition to determine who the provider of entire digital network in Ukraine was to be.

Oddly, only two companies participated - one of them was what Ukrainians call "a purely technical" company, i.e a dummy bidder, who did not even bother to file all the required documents.

The other company, and winner, was the previously unknown "Zeonbud LLC " whose owners are registered offshore [surprise, surprise]. The company cannot point to any other successful projects in this field, and its true owners are not known.

All current broadcasters will have to reapply for digital broadcasting licences, and because of unclear rules and transgressions already made by "Zeonbud", some broadcasters may find themselves 'shut-out'.

The experiences undergone in previous years by the channels "TVi" and "Channel 5" clearly demonstrate that depriving a TV channel of its license is not a big problem for the authorities."

A few minutes Googling reveals that Rinat Akhmetov could well be the man behind "Zeonbud". He is Ukraine's richest oligarch, one of Ukraine's biggest media moguls, and, allegedly, one of Party of Region's biggest sponsors.

E.g. the following [which I've tidied up] from this link:

Donetsk trace
The proprietor of the company which will receive all dividends from introduction in Ukraine digital TV, is unknown. However, according to participants of the market, the company is close to the SCM [corporation owned by] Rinat Ahmetov. Before recent time "Zeonbud" belonged to the offshore company "Omni International Ventures Ltd" which is supervised by SCM [owned by Rinat Ahmetov].
However, in October owners of the company have [ex]changed. The new 100 % owner [of] "Zeonbud" is an unknown Cyprian offshore company "Planbridge Limited."

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