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Thursday, 11 January, 2001, 13:17 GMT
Turner to buy into Russian TV
Ted Turner with his wife
Ted Turner is to buy a stake in Russian independent television
By Russian affairs analyst Stephen Dalziel

American media magnate Ted Turner, is planning to buy a stake in Russia's main independent television station, NTV.

NTV is the flagship of the Media-Most holding company, whose founder and chairman, Vladimir Gusinsky, is currently under house arrest in Spain.

Vladimir Gusinsky
Gusinsky is currently under house arrest in Spain
He is awaiting the outcome of an appeal by the Russian prosecutor general for his extradition to Moscow on fraud charges.

Mr Turner's interest in buying into NTV further complicates an already murky situation.

Mr Gusinsky has been hounded by the prosecutor general since last summer.

The prosecutor's office maintains that he wants to question Mr Gusinsky on fraud charges related to his purchase of a state television channel, and for sending abroad assets which should have been used to repay loans made to Media-Most.

Political dimension

Media-Most claims the charges are politically-inspired, and that the real reason is a desire by the Kremlin to silence media outlets critical of the President, Vladimir Putin.

Mr Gusinsky did accept a large loan from Gazprom-Media, the media wing of the state-owned gas giant, Gazprom.

Media-Most has recently agreed to a shares-for-debt scheme, under which a 49% stake in NTV will be granted to Gazprom-Media in settlement of the loan.

Because Gazprom is state-owned, such a development is expected inevitably to tell on NTV's independence.

Mr Turner's involvement would add an international dimension to the picture.

He founded the world's first global TV service, CNN, and is currently vice-chairman of the media group, Time Warner Incorporated.

Gazprom has already said that Mr Turner's buying a stake in NTV would violate their shares-for-debt agreement.

But, given the possible financial investment that Mr Turner could make in NTV, it appears that Gazprom's main concern is that such a move could loosen their grip on NTV's editorial freedom.

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