Yesterday, it became known that in addition to many population-scaring reforms, like energy and housing and communal services reforms, State Duma deputies were preparing one more surprise for Russian citizens. So, State Duma Committee on Information Policy has prepared the draft About Public Tele- and Broadcasting for its first reading. In particular, this draft foresees that citizens must pay a tax for their right to have a TV set. In fact, this signifies introduction of payments for access to information, while this right is guaranteed by Russian Constitution.
According to the Novye Izvestia newspaper, the main payer of the new tax should be a family as a “society cell.” If a family possesses not less than three TV sets, its monthly license fee will make so far 3 percent of minimal salary (which is equal to 450 rubles in Russia, or approximately $15.00). While that families, that possess more than three TV sets have to pay ten times more.
While not speculating about it too much, I still cannot understand, for what a family could need more than three TV sets. Three TV sets seem to be enough. Mother watches a TV serial in the kitchen, father watches a football match in the drawing-room, and child is in his room, watching his favourite cartoon film. And what about mother-in-law, if she lives together with the family? According to Russian tradition, she has a rest. Of course, I could invent some cases, when a family needs four TV sets. Though, if it turns out that the fourth TV set is necessary, the tax on TV set would seriously decrease TV set sales volume, so the treasury will anyway lose money.
But smart parliamentarians certainly have not failed to take other places into account, where TV sets could get. And here, payments of a higher level are foreseen. So, non-profit organisations, independently on their TV sets’ quality and quantity, must pay every month a tax making up to 10 minimal salaries, while commercial structures - up to 100 minimal salaries. As for hotels, they must pay a month tax for every TV, which is equal to one minimal salary (here, Russian parliamentarians probably hope for the biggest profit for the treasury).
Though, in addition to a troublesome financial component, there is a dangerous enough ideological hidden motive in the draft. The question is that the draft key conception is based on the necessity to transform Russian state telecast into a public or public-legal one. The draft must regulate foundations of creation, financing and functioning of public telecast organisations. In other words, the draft authors impose a supposedly inevitable alternative: if you want to have independent television and receive objective information, you must pay.
There is no positive moments in this draft, especially taking into account that the number of Russian TV audience does not correspond with the number of officially registered population. It is all right, if at least every second Russian puts on the television each day. But if TV viewers must pay for it, the number of that who wishes to have access to information will many times less. So, who will then watch pre-election commercials?
To be honest, Russian are not much interested in what happens in their home policy. They have enough troubles. Though, what authorities will do, if not enough people come to vote, and the election results are not accepted?
Akhtyam Akhtyrov PRAVDA.Ru
Translated by Vera Solovieva
Read the original in Russian: http://economics.pravda.ru/economics/2003/7/21/59/7272_publicTV.html
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