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The pro-Moscow media

Author: Cornelia Cozonac
28/08/2018 617

Favouring Russian televisions at the expense of Romanian ones has negatively influenced the domestic politics and the democratic processes in the Republic of Moldova over the years. From the 90s to the present the Moldovan authorities have shown a total openness towards the Moscow press, accepting it as a dominant investor on the Moldovan media market, thus keeping the population under the influence of policies promoted by the Russian Federation. The press sponsored by Russia, in shady ways, promotes a hostile rhetoric towards the European Union and NATO, and a truncated vision of the internal and foreign events, through manipulative and propaganda filled programs.

The media market from the Republic of Moldova remains dominated by the press of a country with very few democratic tendencies. Some experts from Chişinău attribute this situation to the traditional compliance manifested by the majority of Moldovan governments towards the Russian Federation throughout the entire period of independence of the Republic of Moldova, and to the dependency of the political and economic elites of the Republic of Moldova on the decision-making and influencing factors of the Russian Federation. The reduced presence of Western TV channels in the Republic of Moldova can be explained by the lack of commercial attractiveness on the advertising market, which has never exceeded the amount of 20 million Euros, a turnover which halved in the last years. Presently, all major televisions in the Russian Federation, of general-interest or niche types such as Pervyi Channel, NTV, Ren TV, RTR, STS, TNT and others, broadcast in the Republic of Moldova through TV stations with similar names and broadcasting licenses obtained in Moldova.


According to AGB Nielsen Media Research, studies and measurements in recent years show that the broadcasting schedule of four of the five largest television stations, Prime TV, RTR Moldova, NTV Moldova and Canal 2 (this Top 5 also includes the national channel Moldova 1) is dominated by Russian programs. Although Prime committed to broadcast 52.28% of local programs, RTR Moldova – 32%, NTV Moldova – 57.24% and Channel 2 – 51.64%, this schedule was disregarded. The remaining broadcast space is mostly used for Russian social and political series and talk shows, purchased from the Russian Federation, irrelevant to the viewers in the Republic of Moldova, and with a rather manipulative content. This practice is allowed by the National Broadcasting Council to the detriment of the public interest.
According to AGB data, Prime has the highest average daily audience rating of 3.21%. Channel 2 ranks second place with 1.80%, and RTR Moldova – third place with 1.60%.

The owners of the television channels
Businessman Vladimir Plahotniuc, PDM leader, controls four out of five national channels: Prime, Channel 2, Channel 3 and Publika TV. Until May 2017, he was the owner of SC “General Media Group Corp” SRL.

On May 12th 2017, CCA agreed the transfer of Canal 2 and Channel 3 to Telestar Media, managed by Oleg Cristal, advisor of the PDM leader. Three out of the four televisions replay programs of the Russian Federation TV channels.

Oleg Cristal. Photo: Mold-street.com


Prime TV was created in order to retransmit in Moldova the programs of Pervii Kanal, Russia’s main TV channel, totally subordinated to the Kremlin. Presently Prime is broadcasting some of the most popular shows of Russia’s Pervyi Kanal. Thanks to these, the TV channel has the largest audience and subsequently a large advertising revenue. For instance, Prime’s program “Pole ciudes” recorded the highest rating of 16.96%, or more than half a million viewers at national level.

The editorial content of the channel harshly attacks the PAS opposition parties, led by Maia Sandu, and Dignity and Truth Platform, led by Andrei Năstase. Pro-Russian President Igor Dodon is promoted in a positive light.

Channel 2, formerly called 2 Plus, was launched in 2007, when the CCA withdrew the broadcasting license of the Romanian TV channel TVR1, on the grounds that it did not pay the retransmission equipment fees. Currently this TV station broadcasts films from the Russian Federation in quite a large proportion.
Another owner, close to Vlad Plahotniuc, a beneficiary of three televisions which broadcast programs from the Russian Federation: Super TV, STS Mega and STS Moldova, owned by Real Radio SRL, is Dorin Pavelescu, director of “Casa Media” Plus “SRL, with legal headquarters at the same address (no. 1 Ghioceilor Street), as well as the headquarters of the General Media Group ICS. “Casa Media Plus” SRL has the exclusive rights to sell the advertising space for Prime, Canal 2, Channel 3 and Publika TV. The press stated that STS Moldova and Super TV were recently bought by businessman Vlad Plahotniuc. The founder of “Casa Media Plus” SRL is “OTIV Prime Media B.V”, a company registered in an offshore area. The owner of “OTIV Prime Media B.V” would be Vladimir Plahotniuc, the leader of the Democratic Party. More details in a broad survey about RISE Moldova.

RTR Moldova owned by two large Russian banks
RTR Moldova is the “daughter” TV station of the Russian channel RTR Rosia. It mostly retransmits programs produced by this TV station, as well as Russian films. The holder of the broadcasting license is TV-Comunicaţii Grup SRL, a company that has three founders, including Rosmediakom (50%) – a Russian state association for media and telecommunication. According to Russia’s Trade Registry, Rosmediakom has three founders: Sberbank, the largest bank in Russia, Vneshekonombank, the second largest bank in Russia, and VGTRK, the state-owned television company in Russia.
The other two founders of TV-Communications are Valentina Stetco – a businesswoman who also owns Nova-TV Grup (25%), and SB Grup Media SRL, a company whose founders are Galina Sârbu and Oxana Borshević, relatives of the founders of National TV 4.

The television channels brought on the Moldovan media market by Igor Dodon

NTV Moldova, based on the Russian channel NTV (HTB) is owned, through the company Exclusiv Media LLC, by the socialist deputy Furculiţă, a person close to President Dodon. In 2015, the Russian channel NTV terminated the contract with Chiril Luchinschi’s TV7, and made an agreement with Exclusiv-Media, a company owned by socialist deputy Corneliu Furculiţă. Exclusiv Media SRL is managed by Petru Burduja, a socialist municipal councilor (Chişinău).
Exclusive TV is another TV channel managed by Exclusiv Media SRL, according to the Russian channel TNT Comedy. “Exclusive Media” SRL company obtained the rights to launch TV Channel Exclusive TV and TNT Comedy at the end of 2016. Although CCA repeatedly sanctioned NTV Moldova’s TV station for political bias throughout the entire presidential campaign.

Accent TV – The TV station is managed by Telesistem TV SRL, under the administration of Stanislav Vajga, and founded by another Russian company, Media Invest Service. Media Invest Service is founded by Vadim Ciubară, Dodon’s adviser and the PSRM liaison to Moscow.
Vadim Ciubară is a businessman from Bălţi, Moldova, connected to several financial schemes from off-shore areas, with branches in Romania. In 2013 he became a unique associate of SMG Perfect Deal SRL, based in Bucharest. A RISE Moldova investigation describes the schemes managed by Vadim Ciubară.
NTV and Accent TV, which show a strong political bias towards PSRM through their editorial content, represent an important source of media promotion for the party’s image, and provides attack tools against their opponents. In their news programs, the two channels display anti-government positions, but they approach the government representatives in a selective manner. PDM representatives are not mentioned in the news. The editorial policy favor the events and politics of the Russian Federation. During the presidential election campaign, PSRM increased the budget of the two media institutions by 1,3 million lei.

Moldovan television owners

A RISE Moldova investigation states that during the presidential election campaign in 2016, the Socialist Party would have benefited from millions of dollars sponsorship, funded by a secret business with an offshore company in Bahamas, connected to the Russian Federation. The company would have transferred more than 30 million lei, and the money entered Moldova a few months before the presidential campaign, through Exclusiv Media SRL. Based on loan agreements, millions of lei were transferred from this company to several people related to the party and its sponsors. Although it comes from Bahamas, the loan agreement signed by the offshore and Furculiţă’s firm was drafted in Russian and English language, and all disputes arising from the contract are governed by the material and procedural law of the Russian Federation, and are to be examined by the Court of International Commercial Arbitration attached to the Chamber of Commerce in Moscow.

Exclusiv Media LLC is also the owner of the Russian newspaper Argumentî i faktî, a twin publication of the Federation newspaper with similar name, and also of the site aif.md (Аргументы и факты в Молдове). The wives of Igor Dodon and the deputy Corneliu Furculiţă, Galina Dodon and Ludmila Furculiţă, are employees of Exclusiv Media SRL. At least that’s what their personal financial statements show.

An investigation of the Center for Investigative Journalism on Dodon’s Implications in various schemes linked to Russia.

REN Moldova

Another channel with Russian connections is REN Moldova, the TV-daughter of the Russian channel REN TV. Owner of REN Moldova is Teleproiect SRL, founded by Intermedia Television Agency SRL, owned by Viaceslav Fiodorov. The name of AT Intermedia is identical to a similar Moscow-based structure controlled by SEK, a company owned by the Russian Agency for Copyright.

TVs are controlled by Ilan Shor

Euro TV and Alt TV are associated with businessman Ilan Shor, leader of the Shor Party, although he denies any involvement in the two televisions. Another TV became Orhei TV in 2016.

They are officially owned by Rita Ţvic through Media Resurse SRL, whose founder is Klassika Media SRL, associated with Ilan Shor’s name.

Studies, measurements

CCA records include: 78 TV stations and 58 radio stations. Five TV channels (Moldova 1, Prime, Canal 2, Canal 3 and Publika TV) and eight radios (Radio Moldova, FM Radio, Publika FM, Radio Plai, Hit FM, Voice of Basarabia, Fresh FM and Radio Luck) have national coverage. 85 broadcasters, including 49 television stations and 36 radio stations, have their headquarters in Chişinău, and 51- 29 television stations and 22 radio stations – in other places.

The audience measurement of the broadcasters in the Republic of Moldova is carried out under the patronage of AGB Nielsen Media Research by TV MR MLD, but the objectivity of the results is questionable. Only 15 TV channels are included in the AGB monitoring: Channel 2, Channel 3, Moldova 1, N4, NTV Moldova, Prime, Pro TV Chişinău, Publika TV, Realitatea TV, Ren TV Moldova, RTR Moldova, TNT Exclusiv TV, STS Mega and Super TV.

Most televisions are dominated by Russian production broadcast content. The 2017 data, for instance, show that 25 out of the 45 highest rated programs (three from each channel) are usually broadcast in Russian, taken over from Russian channels, or Soviet production films and series directed and produced in the Russian Federation.

A study carried out in 2014 reveals that the soundtrack of the foreign films transmitted by 8 TV stations (Channel 2, Channel 3, Jurnal TV, Moldova 1, Prime, Pro TV Chisinau, Publika TV and TV7) was dominated as a percentage of 83% by Russian language.

After the dissolution of the USSR, film distributors from the RF obtained the right to extend their operations to the CIS countries. By acquiring the distribution rights for a movie, the distributor in the RF automatically receives the rights for Republic of Moldova. This allows them to apply low rates, considering Republic of Moldova not as a distinct country, but as a region of Russia.

From a financial point of view, Russian productions are more accessible to Moldovan TV stations than European productions. In this way, the films and series broadcasted on screens in the Republic of Moldova are both Russian and international productions. The majority of TV stations that buy movie broadcasting rights have FR providers.

More details about the official owners of the TV stations that broadcast in Moldova can be found on the CCA website (search for Registru-TV-Eter-Etalon2.pdf).

A recent study (July 2018) indicates that the Republic of Moldova is the most exposed and vulnerable  country from Central and Eastern Europe to the Russian propaganda, as shown by the results of the study called “The Resistance to Disinformation in Central and Eastern Europe”.

This research shows that most of the top televisions are those who re-transmit Russian programs, and that much of the online press favors the Kremlin. At the same time, it turns out that there are several important segments of population prone to being manipulated, stated the authors of the study. They also mention that the measures taken lately by the authorities are not enough, or even worse, they are likely to favor certain political groups.

The web portals

Some of the socialist affiliated web portals are presented as “useful” by the PSRM official website itself: socialistii.md. Thus, besides Dodon.md, Gardatinara.md or Fundatiasolutia.md, Actualitati.md, Tsn.md, Replika.md and Aif.md are also present in the list of recommended sites.

The website of the newspaper Argumentî i Faktî Aif.md

The website of the newspaper Argumentî i Faktî Aif.md was registered by the publication Argumentî i Faktî in Moscow. The newspaper is published by Exclusiv Media SRL, a company founded by the socialist deputy and intimate of Igor Dodon, Corneliu Furculiţă, who obtained an broadcast license for NTV Moldova and Exclusiv TV in 2015.

Exclusiv Media SRL also registered the Tsn.md web portal, another PSRM affiliate website. Tsn.md presents Actualitati.md, Replika.md and Argumentî i Faktî as partner web portals.

Petru Burduja, adviser in the Municipal Council of Chişinău representing the Socialist Party, the administrator of Exclusiv Media SRL, owns a share of 50% since 2015 of the serial publication the Russian Newspaper Panorama, which is currently not being edited. The remaining 50% are held by the journalist-politician Dumitru Ciubaşenco, a candidate for the head of state position on behalf of Our Party, led by Renato Usatîi. Polatician Renato Usatâi has made all his fortune in Russia, which allowed him to finance Moldovan mass media. Ciubaşenco, a Russian-language journalist, has administered the newspaper since 2009, and he also registered the site of Pan.md the same year. The publication recounts extensively on Renato Usatîi’s problems with the law enforcement institutions. During the electoral campaign from 2016, the newspaper obtained a contract of 100,830 lei for electoral advertising, given to Dumitru Ciubaşenco. Other sites close to PSRM were recorded by people affiliated to the party.

For instance, the domain of Actualitati.md was registered by Iuri Vitneanski, elected locally to represent PSRM in the Chişinău Municipal Council. Iuri Vitneanski is also a member of the Coordinating Council of the “Young Guard” Public Association, presented as the “young wing” of PSRM.

Domain Replika.md was registered by Roman Fiodorov, former member of the Union of Communist Youth in Moldova. A few years ago, Roman Fiodorov appeared as ideology secretary within the district council in Bălţi. These web portals have a pro-Russian editorial policy, they promote Igor Dodon and other leaders of the PSRM, and avoid criticizing the government, except for the PL leaders.

Pro-Russian portals

Novosti Moldova

Two other mass media establishments, Novosti Moldova and Sputnik, with a pro-Russian editorial policy, often promote Igor Dodon. In fact, there are several affiliation between the two web pages. Domosti Novostimoldova.ru, the portal of the Novosti Moldova Agency, was registered by Naunet, a company licensed to offer Russian web domains. The media business belongs to a LLC with the same name – The News Agency НОВОСТИ-МОЛДОВА, being administered by Rita Ţvic. This company was founded by another firm – News from Russia SRL, a company that is also founded and managed by Rita Ţvic. Her husband, Vladmir Novosadiuc, is the head of the Sputnik Moldova Agency.

Sputnik.md

Sputnik.md, the website of the press establishment presented as a news agency and radio began its activity in November 2014. It was registered by the International Press Agency “Rossia Segodnea” in Moscow, which was founded in 2013 through a presidential decree by the President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin. Sputnik is considered the propaganda agency of the Kremlin. The editorial policy is centered on political events happened in the Russian Federation, and President Putin is mentioned almost daily in the news published on the portal. The leaders of the opposition from Chişinău and the pro-Romanian politicians are presented in negative contexts, while the pro-Russian president Igor Dodon appears in positive contexts.

Sputnik massively promotes Ilan Shor, who holds all the Sputnik press conferences. The media wrote that Shor is funding this agency.

The employees at Sputnik have very high salaries of 1-2,000 euros, as those working at Dodon’s and Vladimir Plahotniuc’s TV stations.

Targeted by the Kroll report

The two spouses Rita Ţvic and Vladimir Novasadiuc, both shareholders of Unibank, one of the three spoliated banks, were targeted by the Kroll Report, the company hired by the Moldovan authorities to investigate the theft of the billion dollars from the three spoliated banks. According to this document, Rita Ţvic and Vladimir Novasadiuc borrowed each 12 million lei from Harrogate Consulting LLP.

In 2014, the two journalists mediated the taking over of two TV stations, Euro TV and Alt TV, by the mayor of Orhei, businessman Ilan Shor. In fact, Rita Ţvic is the founder of Klassika Media SRL, a company that founded Media Resources SRL and Alternativ-TV SRL, which manage the two TV stations. Previously, Rita Ţvic made a documentary about Ilan Shor’s father, and in recent years she appeared on several occasions at public speeches alongside Ilan Shor.

Noi.md was founded in September 2010 by MLD Media SRL, a radio, TV and press agency type of company. It has six shareholders, including companies controlled by businessman Vasile Chirtoca, a municipal councilor representing the Communist Party and a candidate for mayor at the local elections in 2015. The web portal’s journalists say that the articles are published in two languages, Moldovan and Russian, and that the editorial staff would focus on analytical materials. For the same purpose, the “Analytical Center Noi.md” was created in 2013, but no details are provided.

Crimemoldova.com, a crime web portal from the Republic of Moldova, is related to CrimeRussia. the domain crimemoldova.com, with IP address in Arizona, USA, was registered in June 2012 by the Internet Domain Service BS Corp, another service that ensures the anonymity of the real owners. The site states that the owner is the off-shore Citadel Media Group LTD, a company based in Hong Kong, China. According to the official website of the company, cmg.im, besides the Crime Moldova project, it also owns the crimerussia.com, founded in 2009, and russiangate.com, founded in 2016. The domain cmg.im is registered by Alexei Efanov, but no other details are available about him. Chief editor of crimemoldova.com is Alexei Păduraru. Some of the web portal employees say money funds comes from Russia, and that the portal has no political implications.

The Gagauzinfo.md portal

Gagauzinfo.md, a web portal dedicated to events that take place in UTA Găgăuzia, was founded in 2008 by Iusivmedia SRL, a television and radio broadcasting company led by Iulia Cîlcic. This web portal promotes Igor Dodon and favors pro-Russian politics.

Newsmaker.md is a Russian language web portal founded in 2014 by Vladimir Soloviov, a journalist and editor-in-chief, a former correspondent of the Komersant newspaper in Moscow, then director of the online publication Komersant Moldova. The web portal kommersant.md was closed on August 1st 2014; the team invoked financial difficulties that don’t concern the editorial staff. The current project is funded by projects that support the independent media in the Republic of Moldova, as well as from other foreign funds. The portal has a pro-European editorial policy.

Pro-Russian written press

“KP Moldova” is the twin publication of the daily newspaper of the same name Komsomoliskaya Pravda, published in Moscow. It is edited in Chişinău, it promotes the Kremlin’s policy and has an anti-NATO, anti-Romanian and anti-EU editorial vision. The publication has also a web portal https://www.kp.md/. The publication’s logo is identical to the logo of the publication in the Russian Federation. The newspaper is published by the periodical “Komsomoliskaya Pravda-Basarabia” SRL.

Argumentî i Factî – the details are above – is published weekly; it shares the name with a similar publication from Russia, which enjoys popularity in Moscow. The newspaper is published by Exclusiv Media SRL, a company founded by the Socialist deputy and intimate to Igor Dodon, Corneliu Furculiţă, who obtained a broadcast license for NTV Moldova and Exclusiv TV in 2015. The website of the newspaper Argumentî i Faktî Aif.md was registered by the publication Argumentî i Faktî in Moscow.

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