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Wednesday, 27 March, 2002, 17:24 GMT
Pro-Kremlin group wins TV channel
Kiselyov and former NTV journalists
Mr Kiselyov (centre) will return to Russian TV screens
A Kremlin-backed consortium has won the rights to start broadcasting on a frequency left vacant when the government shut down TV-6, the country's last independent national station.

There were 13 bidders for the licence, but the broadcasting authorities opted for the Media-Socium Group, an unusual alliance of political heavyweights and some of the country's most critical journalists.

The editorial team will include star anchorman Yevgeny Kiselyov and other journalists who had formerly been employed at TV-6, a channel which had provided critical coverage of government policy.

But their new bosses, former Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov and the leader of the Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, Arkady Volsky, enjoy close relations with the Kremlin.

The BBC's Russian Affairs analyst Stephen Dalziel says the influence of the two men is likely to ensure the journalists do not ruffle too many feathers above.

Freedom of speech

The closure of TV-6 in January was widely seen as an attack on the freedom of the media, coming less than a year after the forcible takeover of another channel, NTV, by a company close to the government.

President Vladimir Putin
President Putin insisted the closure was to do with money
The channel was shut down after a court case was brought against it by a minority shareholder in the station, the partly state-owned oil giant Lukoil, which said it was failing to make money.

Controversially, a Moscow court ruled in favour of Lukoil, despite the fact that the station had in fact been performing well in terms of both advertising revenue and audience figures in the second half of 2001.

Mr Kiselyov and his team, which he led from NTV to TV-6, had initially planned to make their own independent pitch to retake the channel.

However, it appears Mr Kiselyov believed his chances of returning to Russian TV screens would be greatly improved if he teamed up with the Media-Socium Group to make a single bid.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Mascha Lipmann, Weekly Journal
"This is a disappointing event"
See also:

22 Jan 02 | Europe
Viewpoint: Russian deja-vu
11 Jan 02 | Europe
Independent Russian TV shut down
25 Apr 01 | Europe
Russian tycoon flees to Israel
16 Apr 01 | Europe
New blow against Gusinsky media
14 Apr 01 | Europe
Analysis: The battle for NTV
09 Apr 01 | TV and Radio
Eastern Europe's media revolution
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