Can the public find out who owns the media through free access to the essential information required?
Owners of print, electronic and online media which are registered companies can be identified in Bulgaria but only through cross-referencing the disclosures under the relevant media law with those under the Company Registry Act. None of the laws are, on their own, sufficient to identify ownership; the Mandatory Deposition of Print and other Materials Act, which covers print and online media, does not require the size of shareholdings to be revealed so these need to be found in the Company Register; the Radio and Television Act, which covers electronic media, does not require beneficial ownership by brokerage to be revealed so this needs to be sourced from the Company Register. It is worth noting however that brokerage is at present much less common in Bulgaria than in Western European countries and so, at a practical level, the lack of requirement to disclose beneficial ownership through brokerage may not present such an obstacle to transparency of media ownership as it might elsewhere.
The RTA also has an unacceptably high threshold for disclosure of those with indirect control over a media company; disclosure is only required for those with control of over 50% of the voters or over 50% of the management appointments.
Since the Company Registry Act only applies to registered companies, full ownership details of media outlets that are not companies are not publicly available. For those media that are registered companies, the Company Registry Act, the law has the most detailed ownership disclosure provisions of all the 20 countries surveyed. It is the only law which reveals ownership of both private and publicly listed companies; in the three other countries the company law reveals ownership of publicly-listed companies only and in the other 16 ownership of a media company cannot be established free of charge by the public through the company law at all.
DRAFT – FOR PUBLIC CONSULTATION: This research has been carried out by national experts and is open for consultation. Please let us know if you have any suggestions, or if you spot any errors or omissions by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Law for the Bulgarian Identification of Documents
Mandatory Deposition of Print and Other Materials Act (MDPOMA)
Radio and Television Act (RTA)
Company Registry Act