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Last Updated: Thursday, 9 December, 2004, 13:15 GMT
Russia TV host suspended for joke
Protests during NTV's takeover
Mass protests could not prevent NTV's takeover by Gazprom in 2001
A leading Russian TV presenter has been suspended for a sarcastic comment on air about a colleague's sacking.

NTV removed Alexei Pivovarov from live broadcasting after telling his audience Leonid Parfyonov had proved it may be better to write than to talk in Russia.

Mr Parfyonov, now editing the Russian edition of Newsweek magazine, was dismissed from NTV after airing an interview with a Chechen rebel's widow.

Mr Pivovarov had chosen to stay at NTV after its takeover by a state firm.

Once a flagship of Russian free media, NTV has been recently losing audience and well-known journalists.

The channel confirmed the suspension of Mr Pivovarov.

"Air-time cannot be used by journalists, particularly by presenters, to settle personal accounts," an NTV spokesman told Ekho Moskvy radio.

Mr Pivovarov was a co-presenter of NTV's key evening news programme. The spokesman said Mr Pivovarov would continue to report for the channel but would not present the programme.

Mr Pivovarov upset his employers on Tuesday when, in a lead to a report about his former colleague becoming the editor-in-chief of the Russian edition of Newsweek, he said:

"By accepting the offer of the Axel Springer publishers [the owner of Newsweek's Russian version] the TV journalist confirmed that in Russia it is sometimes easier to write than to speak."

He added: "Half a year ago Nikolay Senkevich, who was then NTV's general director, made a personal contribution to the history of the Russian television by sacking Parfyonov."

Light-hearted news

Leonid Parfyonov
Leonid Parfyonov, sacked last June, now heads Russian Newsweek
Mr Senkevich was one of the NTV bosses left after the channel's takeover by state gas monopoly Gazprom in 2001.

Part of the original team led by NTV's former general director Yevgeny Kiselev left, but many, including Mr Parfyonov and Mr Pivovarov, chose to stay, despite sharp criticism from Mr Kiselev's camp for what its members so as collaborationism with the authorities.

Mr Senkevich himself resigned soon after the sacking of Mr Parfyonov.

Mr Parfyonov created the channel's new flagship evening news programme in the genre which Russian TV critics dubbed as light-hearted or ironic news.

The programme was under the threat of closure after the new head of NTV, Vladimir Kulistikov, started revamping the channels' schedule. However, unlike several other popular political programmes, it survived the changes.


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