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Nezavisimaya gazeta, April 22, 1992).
Seventy seven per cent of the Russians watch Rossiya programmes
plus audiences in those CIS and East European countries that permit
transmitting them. In addition to its basic 16 hour daily programmes,
Rossiya relays four duplicates for various time belts in the country (a
total of nearly 64 hours). Rossiya and Ostankino often release the same
reports. The thing is both of them use the services of one national tv
Information Agency. Foreign reports are «(18 March 1992)» that hot video
information from zones of conflict is sold on the sly by Rossiya staffers,
if they manage to get it form the author, to Western agencies for 200 dol
lars per minute. Whenever videomaterial is sold abroad officially, its
authors do not get a cent either the Rossiya administration get all the
money.
220
George Vachnadze

Approximately one third of the Rossiya’s programmes are its own.
The rest are repeat showings of the best programmes in the daytime, and
also of films and programmes bought from other TV companies.
The Rossiya administration, which owns the first Soviet TV centre in
Shabolovka Street (its antediluvian equipment delights foreign coll
leagues) bought an incomplete 14 story building from the Ministry of
Defence. In a year or two a modem TV centre equipped to the latest word
in technology is to be opened there.
Oleg Poptsov, Rossiya’s chairman, has contrived to be on good terms
with both President Yeltsin, as well as the speaker Khasbulatov, the
Supreme Soviet, and the Cabinet. So he hopes that more money will be
allotted to the Rossiya channel.
When Rossiya was being set up and the property of the USSR
National TV network and Gosteleradio split, Poptsov only took
Shabolovka—he decided to start from scratch. In January 1993, acting
on the presidential decree concerning the Rossiya TV channel, Poptsov
took Channel IV (Russian Universities) away from Ostankino and half
the facilities of the «Moscow global» satellite network. Now programmes
of both the first and second Moscow channels will be relayed to the plan
et alternately.
The Ministry of Communications scheduled the launching of a
satellite for relaying Rossiya programmes to the Russian Far East for the
spring of 1993. Rossiya will also expand its zone of broadcasting
through the Space Communications Centre in Klin near Moscow that
was handed over to it not long ago. In 1993 budget appropriations for the
development of space communications in Russia stand at 17 billion rou
bles (the entire space related budget being 54 billion roubles).
Rumours are being circulated in the Ostankino company that the
huge technical television centre in the Moscow district of Ostankino will
also be handed over to Rossiya. It has been suggested that a competition
be held for the fourth channel, for if it is managed by independent com
panies this will definitely ease the burden on the state budget. Channel
IV has ceased to exist as a brilliant programme with its own cultural and
educational concept, being gradually turned into a surrogate commer
cial outfit. And the poor Rossiya company will hardly be able to restore
the appeal of the Russian Universities now that it was placed under its
jurisdiction. During the eighteen months of Rossiya’s existence the
Russian government issued seven decrees on this company, setting
unfeasible tasks, wasting a lot of money and destabilising the country’s
television structure.
221
Russia’s Hotbeds of Tension

TV Channel V: Russian Federal TV
and Radio Broadcasting Service
Fifth channel programmes have been watched by audiences in most
of the European part of Russia and in the Baltic republics for years. On
October 17, 1992, President Yeltsin issued a decree on the establish
ment of the Federal Television and Radio Broadcasting Service Rossiya
(FTRBS) with Bella Kurkova as its head.
After January 15, 1992, the Leningrad TV studio which had until
then used Channel V, was transformed by Yeltsin’s decree into the
Russian State Television and Radio Broadcasting Company St.
Petersburg. Victor Yugin, chairman of the Russian Supreme Soviet com
mittee for the mass media, was appointed its chairman (Vyacheslav
Bragin succeeded him as head of the committee).
In 1991 the famous—since Brezhnev’s times TV journalist who
hosted «The Fifth Wheel» (the most politically committed programme in
the country) and now a member of the Russian parliament Bella
Kurkova and her small team, began to work at the just formed Rossiya
channel (II). They attracted much larger audiences to it. In 1992
Kurkova was appointed Director of St. Petersburg (the company affiliat
ed to Oleg Poptsov’s Russian Television network). The highly energetic
Kurkova (born 1935) in her time created the St. Petersburg channel lit
erally from nothing, having persuaded many top Moscow institutions to
give her loans and equipment.
In 1992 Yugin decided to move his Petersburg company under the wing
of Khasbulatov the speaker who was at the time implementing his idea—to
spite Yeltsin—of an Interparliamentary Assembly of the CIS countries with
its centre in St. Petersburg. But the Petersburg TV company turned «red
and brown» even without Khasbulatov. It was marked by unbridled patriot
ism in the spirit of Alexander Nevzorov with his ultra chauvinistic pro
gramme «600 seconds» and a sweeping invasion of commercialism. To
quote Bella Kurkova, Yugin sold air time to foreigners for glass beads.
Partocrats, nationalists and fascists of all hues, who had been
taken off the silver screen in Moscow, were welcomed in St. Petersburg by
Mr. Yugin and aired their views before half Russia. Among them were
also those in disfavour now—Gorbachev, Bocharov, Travkin, Sterligov
and Alksnis. Yeltsin did not put up with it for long he disbanded
Petersburg, dismissed Yugin, formed the FTRBS for his political cousin
Bella Kurkova and put her in charge of both Petersburg and St.
Petersburg. Moreover, he put at her disposal the well equipped facilities
of the Russian News Agency (former APN) in Moscow that had been set
up to propagandise Gorbachev’s activities to the public abroad. In keep
ing with President Yeltsin’s decree of October 17, 1992, the Rossiya
Federal TV and Radio Broadcasting Company was set up to enhance
information supporting reform in the Russian Federation and to further
demonopolise the media. In 1993 the FIRBS will become the third
222
George Vachnadze

national programme. Its transmission across the country—from the
Baltic area to Kamchatka—will start as soon as channels are released on
фе satellites in the process of conversion.
St. Petersburg residents will of course be able to watch their local
TV, for the second Russian capital has enormous potential in the way of
journalists—the former Petersburg company has 18 production groups.
Meanwhile President Yeltsin will have three state TV channels at his dis
posal. Taxpayers recall how Khrushchev, Brezhnev and Gorbachev made
do with just one half an hour news programme «Vremya».
Yugin, a deputy to the Supreme Soviet, learned about his dismissal
watching the evening news on TV. He protested in court, since he had been
removed from office without the knowledge of the Supreme Soviet, which
means in violation of the law. On October 27, the Supreme Soviet
Committee for the Mass Media discussed the legal aspect of the president’s
decree on the FTRBS. Reports made by two expert groups were submitted
to the deputies: the first group’s conclusion was that the decree had been
written «to order», the other group found many faults in it. The President,
they said, may not deny a mass information medium a broadcasting
license. This can only be done by the Federal Licence Commission in court.
Further, only the court or the founder (also in court) may close down a mass
information medium, in keeping with the Law on the Mass Media. Following
a two hour long debate, the deputies agreed that generally all laws and
decrees issued today were imperfect. So no further action was taken,
except that the parties concerned were instructed to inquire into the case
and penalise those (Yugin) who drafted the Petersburg programme sched
ule with only 4 hours of the air time given daily to this programme (the
remaining time was sold to foreign TV companies). One can understand
Yugin. He complained to his colleagues in parliament that his independent
TV company, Petersburg, broadcast only half an hour less than Ostankino,
but it got 20 times less (!) money from the budget than the latter.
Channel VI: Eduard Sagalayev & Ted Turner
From May 1992 Muscovites could daily watch (at 10 p.m.) a two
hour CNN news programme on Channel IV, live and translated into
Russian. That was an outcome of the many year dedicated efforts made
by journalist Eduard Sagalayev and his Moscow based Independent
Broadcasting Corporation (MIBC), who obtained the permission from
the government to open their own channel and signed a relevant con
tract with Ted Turner on May 17. The next day CNN began to regularly
beam on the sixth channel.
It is not at all accidental that Ted Turner found himself in the good
graces of the Russian democrats. Throughout the eighties the government
and foreigners residing in Moscow could watch the CNN programmes on
223
Russia’s Hotbeds of Tension

cable television. Ted Turner who heads the TBS company owning world
news service CBN, said on more than one occasion that the USSR National
Television network and, later Ostankino could use CNN material in their
programmes. Turner did not bother about the piratical reception of CNN
programmes by all cable and state networks in the USSR and the CIS. It
was only at the end of 1999 that several local companies in the CIS bought
the right for commercial distribution of CNN programmes from Turner for
symbolic price and began to seek an official subscription for its pro
grammes through parabolic community antennas.
In a bid to assert CNN in the world market Turner, who owns an
excellent film and video libraries of American movies, is in a position to
offer viewers the gems and classical works of US cinema art—both on his
own TV networks and, for instance, through Ostankino. Turner earned
Brezhnev’s and Gorbachev’s favour when he lent his hand in an effort to
lead the Soviet American relations out of an impasse. It was specially for
the USSR that Turner proposed holding Good Will Games, a certain alter
native to the Olympiad, that allowed to smooth over the situation caused
by the United States’ boycott of the Moscow Olympic Games of 1980. The
Good Will Games held in Moscow and Seattle (the third Games are sched
uled for 1994 and will be held in St. Petersburg) brought Turner losses to
the tune of $26 million and $44 million, respectively. They are conceived
as a gigantic television show and the right to transmit them is sold to
world companies for a pretty penny. To assure high standards of broad
casting an filming in St. Petersburg, Ostankino needs to buy TV equip
ment to the sum of $140 million. It is absurd to ask the Russian govern
ment to allocate this sum. But Turner said he would think about it…
CNN is eager to have its own channel in Russia beaming to the whole
country. Sagalayev, the author of the most honest and brightest political
programmes on the National Television («12th Floor», «Vzglyad», TSN, «7
days»), who became director general of the first channel under Yegor
Yakovlev and who is the long standing president of the Confederation of the
Journalists’ Unions, has always worked for a television dependent on the
viewers, rather than on the government, the President or the parliament.
Turner and Sagalayev became partners of necessity. Neither of them
would have got the sixth channel on his own. To sell this channel to
Turner would be tantamount to the government signing its own death
sentence—for the opposition never forgives such liberties. Neither would
the government cede this right to Sagalayev, «a half Uzbek and half Jew
from Samarkand» (in his own words).
On January 1, 1993, the first independent channel in Russia, TV 6
Moscow, launched its daily five hour broadcasts. The MITC plans
switching to round the clock operation and producing its own pro
grammes. In the meantime Turner’s involvement guarantees the compa
ny the viewers’ steady interest owing to the CNN accompanied with the
Russian translation, animated films and Hollywood hits. For its part,
Sagalayev has made it possible for the viewers to see the best national
224
George Vachnadze

pictures and retrospective reviews of the best Russian film directors. TV
6 Moscow broadcasts are free of charge and financed from the advertise
ments and commercials.
Sagalayev and Turner managed to successfully overcome the
bureaucratic barriers raised in their way, even though the government
bureaucrats did all they could to bury the idea, or at least to force them
to take on a couple of copartners. This is how it was.
The Council of Ministers of the Russian Federation, by its decree of
September 26, 1991, introduced licensing into the state monopoly prac
tice of national television. In keeping with it, «TV and radio broadcasting
on the territory of the Russian Federation, as well as communications
pertaining to them, shall be effected on the basis of licenses issued by
the Ministry of the Press and the Ministry of Communications, respec
tively, upon their mutual consent».
Since neither Ostankino nor Rossiya have the respective licence,
this means they are operating illegally. The Council of Ministers adopted
the provisional Statutes on Licensing, defining the procedure for obtain
ing licences. A commission for broadcasting was to be formed by an
order of the Ministry of the Press and the Ministry of Communications.
It took them three months to form the commission, and another two to
approve the list of its members. The final composition of the commission
was endorsed on March 20, 1992. However, even a year later it did not
have its own premises, a telephone or any other facilities. Clerical work
is done in the apartment of Alexei Simonov, a film director who is a
cochairman of the commission. These attitudes on the part of the two
ministries suggest the conclusion that the commission was to become
nothing more than a democratic «screen» covering the same old sweeping
government control over the TV and radio broadcasts.
The MITC has twice applied for the Russian licence. Incidentally the
corporation already had the licence, issued to Sagalayev and Turner for
five years (dated September 1, 1991) and signed by Yuri Luzhkov,
Premier of the Moscow government, and A. Ivanov, deputy USSR
Minister of Communications. The Council of Ministers of the Russian
Federation decreed that the licences issued by the USSR shall be rereg
istered. Suddenly, the MITC learned that a competition was announced
for the sixth channel on which the CNN news programme had been tele
vised for some time. The MITC applied for a licence again. After that the
TV Review published the terms of the competition, explaining that
Channel 6 is the last in the one metre range making it possible to broad
cast to Moscow and the Moscow Region. Some time in the future it may
cover other regions in Russia.
The authorities knew what they were doing when they announced a
competition: a dozen promising bidders joined in the struggle for the fight
to work on Channel 6. Consequently, Sagalayev and Turner were com
pelled to accept new partners—the Argumenty i fakty daily and the
International Television Business University (headed by Academician
225
Russia’s Hotbeds of Tension

Nikolai Petrakov). The latter has been allotted full four hours of daily air
time. The MITC Board of Directors was also forced to sell a considerable
part of the shares of the Russian American TV company to specified per
sons. The path of the TV 6 Moscow has not been a bed of roses. However,
MITC President Sagalayev will not be daunted by difficulties. He is sure to
find the means to buy satellite channels and start transmitting his pro
grammes first to many and then to all towns and cities in Russia, the CIS
and other neighbouring countries.
The MITC starts work at 7 p.m. From 3 p.m. until seven the sixth
channel is given to the TV company Sevemaya Korona (Northern Crown)
which represents a new non governmental organisation—the
International Television Business University with its information educa
tional, cultural and entertainment features.
TV 6 Moscow is the only major TV channel in the former Soviet
Union that is completely independent of the government so far as its
funding goes. Apart from the CNN the Moscow government, banks, the
Mosfilm film making concern and even a few national oil companies
made their contribution to the Channel VI funding. Sagalayev is spend
ing huge sums as modernization of 1.5 million community antennas in
Moscow costs a lot.
As the TV 6 Moscow community reception area expands, so will the
ad rates (today’s rate is 200 dollars per 30 seconds at prime time). The
company sent scores of its publicity workers to get training as ad spe
cialists in the USA. Back home they will start establishing contacts with
advertising agents and producing commercials. The next stage is to
launch their own TV feature and documentary programmes.
By the end of 1994, TV 6 Moscow will become «a channel for all» and
cover 50 million viewers. Four or five national television networks is a lot
for one country, therefore Sagalayev is in for a stiff competition. However,
only the shareholders’ meeting can strip him of his duties as the compa
ny’s president. Consequently, MITC need not try to please the authori
ties and this gives it the chance to win the audience. Sagalayev does not
worry about some official from the Federal Information Centre, the par
liament, the President’s staff, some Ministry or the KGB calling him to
give instructions to show this and that, pass some fact in silence, and so
on. For, should this happen, Sagalayev is free to answer the way, say,
Turner would, namely, something unprintable.
Symbolically, the brain child of Sagalayev and Turner officially
started its life on January 1, 1993, the day when Euronews first
appeared on the air in Lyons (France). The best TV services in Western
Europe take part in this project. It can be broadcast to the entire conti
nent up to the Urals in five sound tracks with one picture and anchor
man behind the screen. Broadcasting in Russian and Arabic is planned.
Let us not overestimate the degree of Sagalayev’s independence or
his non conformism, as well as the Russians’ interest in American tele
vised news and the Lyons Russian speaking opposite number may prove
226
George Vachnadze

to be a formidable rival—a kind of a television analogue of the much
loved here America Radio Liberty.
Demonopolisation of the Television Network in Russia
Since the beginning of 1993 people living in some districts of
Moscow can daily watch «Moscow  Revue» (from 2 p.m. to midnight, 27
UHF band). The first step towards the development of commercial televi
sion was made by the Marathon TV association which incorporates
Videofilm, the Astra research and production association for cable net
works and radio relay stations, the Main Centre for Radio and Television
Broadcasting, the St. Petersburg Research Institute of Television and
the A. Mints Radio Engineering Institute.
Videofilm headed by film director Oleg Uralov assures programme
support for the commercial Moscow  Revue TV channel which does not
rely on state subsidies. Until 1993, Videofilm operated on a renting
basis. It renounced state subsidies and maintained thousands of video
libraries all over Russia, and wielded monopoly right of recording films
on video casettes. By 1993, however, having despaired of fighting the
video pirates from the local mafia structures, the corporation switched
over to television and its own film making. Videofilm shot and released
«Great Chaliapin», «Sweet Dream» about Tchaikovsky, video serials «St.
Sergius Chapel» and the one about the Great Patriotic War, film ballets,
and films about Russia’s past and present.
Oleg Uralov, who is not at all a free thinker and malcontent, easily
obtained for his «Marathon TV» a licence for his own frequency channel in
the UHF band. The Marathon TV cofounders promptly organised the man
ufacture of thousands of decoders and UHF converters for dated TV mod
els. At the end of 1993 they will already be able to rent these devices. The
«Moscow Revue» programme will thus operate on a subscription basis with
the yearly subscription rate not exceeding those of one or two newspapers.
Marathon TV has undertaken to modernise all of Moscow’s community
antennas. Uralov hopes to get high profits from advertising activities, from
his own video library numbering some 2000 titles of national and foreign
films, and from the long term contract he signed with the fourth channel of
the British TV. He is also counting on attracting Russian businessmen for
whom are intended 15 minutes every hour of economic, technological and
stock exchange news with an expertly commentary on government decrees,
answers to the questions asked by businessmen from commercial and
state owned ventures. «Moscow Revue» is designed for intellectuals.
There will be stiff competition over Channel Ill, the state financed
Moscow channel (MTV). It is headed by Aigar Misan, who only recently
headed the TV sector in the CC CPSU ideological department. In 1992 the
Moscow TV channel acquired independence and even started playing
227
Russia’s Hotbeds of Tension

durty tricks on its former bosses from Ostankino. In summer 1992
Muscovites ceased tuning in to the «Vremya» (now «Novosti») news pro
gramme at 9 p.m. because it coincided in time with the serial soap opera
«No One But You» on the Moscow TV channel. Giving justice where justice
is due, it should be said that, among other things, Muscovites are devot
ed to Channel Ill because they like its anchormen—Gregory Kuznetsov,


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