Bulgaria's Anti-Trust Watchdog Probes Print Media Monopoly

Business | October 19, 2011, Wednesday // 12:13|  views

Now, even though not in power, Ahmed Dogan is still fit to play the role of a parallel authority, the journalists from an anti-government newspaper claim. Photo by BGNES

Bulgaria's anti-trust Commission for Protection of Competition, KZK, has launched a probe of the print media market in the country.

The news was reported Wednesday by the Bulgarian Dnevnik daily after they have done a check of the KZK registry.

The watchdog announced in mid-August their intention to analyze the publishing and distribution business after they were alarmed about serious violations of competition rules.

The information collected by KZK since then has triggered doubts about the freedom in the distribution of print media and the decision the start the probe. It remains unclear if the publishing market is going to be checked as well.

The probe aims at establishing the exact position of different players on this market. It is expected to last four months, but the law does not require strict deadlines. In case of proven violations such as a monopoly situation, the watchdog can launch pre-trail proceedings against the violators.

In mid-August, the Editor-in-Chief of the anti-government Galeria (Gallery) tabloid weekly, Kristina Patrashkova, its Deputy Editor-in-Chief and Director of "Glassove" (Voices), Yavor Dachkov, the co-Publisher (along with Ognyan Donev and Lyubomir Pavlov) of the tabloid newspapers "Bulgaria Dnes (Bulgaria Today) and "Retro," Nedyalko Nedyalkov, all met with Prime Minister, Boyko Borisov, as well, to discuss the state of the Bulgarian print media and its distribution market, where there is an alleged monopoly of the New Bulgarian Media group.

After the talks, Borisov ordered a probe of the publishing and distributing media business in the country to be executed by KZK.

The meeting came shortly after the purchase of a large number of titles by media mogul Irena Krasteva and the recent squabbles over ownership of the WAZ assets in Bulgaria – the first ever monopolist on the local media market, dating back to the 90s - left a bitter taste in the mouth of the audience.

The beginning of August saw the latest development on the market and the monopoly expansion - where one third of the shares of top Bulgarian daily Standart (Standard) were, allegedly, bought by New Bulgarian Media Group, something the management of the daily firmly denies.

New Bulgarian Media Group owns the national BBT TV channel, the Telegraf daily, Weekend weekly, Monitor daily, Politika weekly, the newly-created Vseki Den daily, as well as the local Veliko Tarnovo daily Borba and the Plovdiv daily Maritsa. (Telegraf and Weekend are the highest-circulation daily and weekly in Bulgaria.)

Apart from the concentration of media in its hands, the New Bulgarian Media Group has been criticized for an apparent lack of clarity as to the provenance of its assets.

The deals are suspected to show that shady figures can afford to buy back shares in large numbers or artificially prop up loss-making titles not because this is economically profitable.

They are tempted by the prospect of using the media for money laundering or for promoting other economic activities from public tenders, public works, mobile telephony, energy, tourism, etc.

The investments are made with the sole goal of turning the media into a tool for communication or pressure, opponents say.

According to numerous reports, Ahmed Dogan, leader of the Bulgarian ethnic Turkish party Movement for Rights and Freedoms, DPS,  largely known over the last decade as the country's back seat ruler, stands behind the monopoly on the local media market, an anti-government newspaper has alarmed.

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Tags: Corporate Commercial Bank, Todor Batkov, Movement for Rights and Freedoms, DPS, WAZ, Standart, Irena Krasteva, Delyan Peevski, Tsvetan Vasilev, Slavka Bozukova, GM Press, bank, Brussels, European Commission, Irena Krasteva, Central Cooperative bank, Corporate Commercial Bank, Ahmed Dogan, Glassove, Galeria, Boyko Borisov, Prime Minister, KZK, New Bulgarian Media Group, Bulgaria, Bulgarian, media, newspaper


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