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21

Lukoil wants 'new image' for Russian TV

After persuading a court to shut down Russian largest independent television network

After persuading a court to shut down Russia's largest independent television network, a subsidiary of Russia's biggest oil company said Saturday it wants to buy the channel's broadcasting rights informs The Russia Journal. Russia's top arbitration court on Friday ordered the closure of TV6, ending a closely watched, eight-month legal battle and dealing the latest blow to Russian media freedom. TV6's feisty journalists are among the vernment's fiercest critics. The ruling came in response to a bankruptcy lawsuit by minority shareholder Lukoil-Garant, a pension fund owned by oil giant Lukoil. Lukoil-Garant, which holds a 15 percent stake in TV6 and which is itself minority-owned by the Russian state, demanded the station be liquidated because it failed to make a profit. TV6 maintains that it is profitable despite earlier financial woes.After the victory, Lukoil-Garant said Saturday it wanted to bid for the station's broadcasting license and even suggested it would hire back some of TV6's journalists. TV6 lawyers said its broadcast license should be annulled after the liquidation, which must be carried out by May. "The fund is ready to join efforts with the TV-6 staff for participation in this tender (for the license) and, in the case of victory, hand over a considerable package of shares to the personnel for joint work to create a new image of the channel," the fund said in a statement. "This work will ... take into account first of all the interests of TV viewers and observe the principles of the freedom of information", the statement said. The statement did not elaborate on what it meant by a "new image" or give any details. TV6 officials could not immediately be reached for comment on the offer, though its journalists are unlikely to be interested. The TV6 staff includes some of the most experienced and prominent journalists in the country, a group that had defected in disgust from NTV television when it was taken over by natural gas giant Gazprom last year after a bruising legal fight. The journalists said the NTV and TV6 takeovers were orchestrated by the Kremlin to punish them for critical coverage. The Kremlin has denied involvement, but both battles prompted international concern about Russian President Vladimir Putin's commitment to media freedom. In Washington, White House press secretary Ari Fleischer said Friday the U.S. administration was "disappointed" by the decision to close TV-6. Analysts warned the ruling would prompt self-censorship among Russian journalists and harm local television stations that cooperated with TV6. NTV had been owned by tycoon Vladimir Gusinsky, and TV6 is majority-owned by magnate Boris Berezovsky. Both men were involved in shady privatization deals in the 1990s and had good relations with the Kremlin during Boris Yeltsin's tenure but have since fallen out with the government. Both are abroad avoiding criminal cases they call politically motivated.

Author: Neftegaz.RU