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Russian advertising ban on paid cable and satellite channels threatens independents

MOSCOW — An advertising ban on Russian cable and satellite TV stations could decimate regional television broadcasting from the suburbs of the capital to the far reaches of Siberia, leaving the country almost entirely dependent on state media for news and information.

The law, which will prohibit commercial advertisements on paid cable and satellite channels starting next year, is one of many measures Russian authorities have adopted in recent months to tighten control over the flow of information, reduce foreign money in Russian media and force journalists to hew closer to a pro-Kremlin line.

But the advertising ban threatens to deliver the most devastating blow to homegrown independent outlets where Russians get most of their news: television.

More than 100 regional stations available via cable and satellite will immediately be pushed to the edge of extinction when the law takes effect, as small and medium-size outlets are sapped of vital revenue. And because technological changes are moving all Russian television to digital, industry representatives say that unless they can secure changes before the new year, the advertising restrictions could soon force nearly all independent TV media without outside funding sources to close.

“What we are witnessing is the complete closure of this sphere of business, where the regional companies will be just left without anything,” said Sergei Isakov, deputy general director of Russia’s national association of television broadcasters. “When this ban is enforced, these stations won’t be able to survive.”

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