Senator Sees China’s Hand in Central Europe TV Sale

US Republican Senator Marco Rubio has asked the US Secretary of the Treasury and the Attorney General to launch "a full review of the national security implication of AT&T's upcoming sale of the Central European Media Group Enterprises, CME, to the Czech-owned conglomerate PPF Group".

AT&T is a US multinational telecommunications conglomerate and the largest shareholder at the CME. The owner of the PPF Group is Czech tycoon Peter Kellner, whom the Florida Senator accused of being a "China proxy".

In 2018, Petr Kellner was set to buy Bulgaria's largest media company, Nova Broadcasting, which owns some of the most popular commercial TV channels in the country, but the Bulgarian competition commission blocked the deal.

If PPF buys the CME, it will take control of popular TV channels in several Central European countries, such as the Czech Republic, Romania, Bulgaria, Slovakia and Slovenia. It channels, including rating market leaders ProTV in Romania and bTV in Bulgaria, reach an audience of 97 million people, according to Rubio's letter.

Rubio said this was potentially worrying. "The administration needs to conduct closer reviews of corporate deals like … [the] sale of CME, and understand how the Chinese government and Communist Party work through proxies like PPF," he said.

Rubio, who co-chairs the Congressional Executive Commission on China, CECC, and is a member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, warned of the threat that "the Chinese Communist Party's political interference in foreign governments and societies" could pose to the countries where CME operates.

He argued that the sale would affect US national security, as Washington's priorities include "preserving a free and open media environment overseas...

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