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Russia gives broadcast licence to CNN, off-air since last year

March 24, 2015

Russia said Tuesday it had issued a fresh broadcast licence to CNN after the US news channel went off air last year, blaming restrictions on foreign-owned media.

A spokeswoman for Russia’s media watchdog Roskomnadzor confirmed an order was given to issue CNN with a licence to broadcast nationwide for 10 years.

CNN went off air in Russia on December 31 last year, with its owner, Turner, a division of TimeWarner, saying the shutdown was prompted by “changes in media legislation” in Russia.

Russia last year passed a law limiting foreign ownership of media to 20 percent, a move that affected numerous print media and television channels. It also tightened rules on advertising for cable channels.

CNN until recently was an option on cable and satellite packages in Russia, where it began broadcasting in the early 1990s. Its reporters did not leave Russia after the channel went off air.

In January this year, CNN began talks with the media watchdog on returning to the airwaves in Russia.

It was not immediately clear what, if any conditions, Russia has set for CNN to begin broadcasting again.

However Alexander Zharov, the head of Roskomnadzor, told the Izvestiya daily on Tuesday that the outlet was “following exactly the agreements” reached in talks with the watchdog.

CNN came under fierce criticism in Russia last year with MPs threatening it with a ban after it lightheartedly claimed that a memorial in Belarus to Soviet soldiers who fought in World War II was among the ugliest monuments in the world. The channel apologised.

As part of a propaganda campaign to support Moscow’s actions in Ukraine, Russian media has frequently accused Western outlets of deliberately distorting news coverage to promote an anti-Russian agenda.

State television news harshly criticised CNN’s coverage of the murder of opposition leader Boris Nemtsov last month, saying a commentator had blamed President Vladimir Putin for the killing without proof.

Dispatches from AFP concerning freedom of information, censorship and news coverage in regions where independent media is under threat.