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Czech Billionaire Snaps Up Bulgaria’s Biggest Broadcaster

Acquisition confirms trend of Western owners exiting the politically charged media environment of southeastern Europe.

23 February 2018

The PPF investment group, owned by Czech billionaire Petr Kellner (pictured), will buy 95 percent of shares in Bulgaria’s Nova Broadcasting from its Stockholm-based owner Modern Times Group (MTG), Balkan Insight reports. The purchase price was a reported 185 million euros ($227 million).


According to Novinite, PPF also acquired the remaining 5 percent of Nova from Eastern European Media Holdings.


Nova is Bulgaria’s largest commercial media group, with seven TV channels and 19 websites, according to Balkan Insight.


PPF has become one of Central Europe’s most aggressive investment groups in recent years. Kellner is currently also in talks with Norwegian telecommunication group Telenor about taking over its assets in Bulgaria, Hungary, Montenegro, and Serbia, BNE Intellinews reports.


PPF also holds a majority stake in Czech Republic’s largest telecommunications operator, O2.


Although the impact of the reshuffle on the Bulgarian media landscape remains to be seen, the development comes amid renewed concerns about press freedom in the Balkan state.


Bulgaria, which currently holds the rotating presidency of the European Union, was ranked 109th out of 180 countries – worst in the EU – in the 2017 Reporters Without Borders (RSF) World Press Freedom index.


The poor result is due to “an environment dominated by corruption and collusion between media, politicians, and oligarchs,” says RSF, mentioning former Bulgarian intelligence chief Delyan Peevski specifically.


Peevski is currently a deputy for Bulgaria’s opposition Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS), and owner of the New Bulgarian Media Group. According to RSF, this group owns six newspapers and controls nearly 80 percent of print media distribution.


In a letter to AFP, however, Peevski denied any direct or indirect ownership of any press distribution companies, EurActiv reports.


Christian Spahr, head of the South East Europe media program of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, compared Bulgarian media ownership to Russian dolls: “When you open one, there is another one inside. There is an official owner of the media outlet but everybody knows that it is not the actual owner, there is someone else behind.”



  • Media expert Nikoleta Daskalova has described a trend in the Central and Eastern Europe media environment, particularly in Bulgaria, of ever-decreasing advertising revenues, ever-increasing political dependency, the withdrawal of foreign media owners, dramatically diminishing print circulation, and intensive reader migration to digital media.


  • Another major regional media player, Central European Media Enterprises (CME) is reportedly looking to offload its assets in Bulgaria, Romania, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia, BNE Intellinews says.


  • Just 10 percent of Bulgarians think local media is independent, according to a poll cited by EurActiv.

Compiled by Wasse Jonkhans

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