Another TV channel threatened with closure

The TV-6 case is strikingly similar to the recent hostile takeover of the independent television network NTV.

New York, November 26, 2001—
CPJ expressed grave concern over today’s ruling by a Moscow appellate court upholding the liquidation of the private Russian channel TV-6. The appeal was lodged following a September 27 ruling to liquidate TV-6’s parent company, MNVK.

TV-6 has 30 days to appeal this latest decision, and says it will do so.

“The liquidation of TV-6 would deprive Russian citizens of one of the last outspoken, independent, non-state sources of information in the country’s broadcast media,” according to CPJ executive director Ann Cooper. “We are troubled by the legal proceedings against TV-6, which appear to constitute at best selective targeting, and at worst, a politically motivated assault.”

Selective Use of the Law
The September suit was lodged by the pension fund of LUKoil-Garant, a minority stakeholder in TV-6. LUKoil-Garant is a subsidiary of the giant LUKoil corporation, which owns 15 percent of TV-6. The Russian industrial magnate Boris Berezovsky owns 75 percent of the television station, either outright or through other companies that he controls.

Berezovsky is a bitter opponent of President Vladimir Putin. On the basis of an obscure Russian law that prohibits companies from running a deficit for more than two years, LUKoil-Garant persuaded an appellate bench of the Moscow Arbitration Court that MNVK “carried out its business affairs with numerous violations.”

Supporters of TV-6 argue that the law is being applied selectively. They claim that TV-6’s finances were improving and that its ratings and advertising revenues have increased dramatically in recent months.

Political motivation
The TV-6 case is strikingly similar to the recent hostile takeover of the independent television network NTV by Gazprom, a state-dominated oil and gas monopoly.

NTV was Russia’s only independent television channel with a national reach. The channel came under fire from the Kremlin for its outspoken reporting, which often contradicted the official line. Immediately following the April 2001 take-over, many high-profile NTV journalists joined TV-6.

On the basis of the court’s latest decision, the Ministry of Information and Press could take away TV-6’s broadcasting license at any moment. According to the ruling, TV-6 will cease to exist in six months unless its current appeal is successful. It remains unclear whether the ministry will suspend TV-6’s broadcasting license at the beginning or the end of the six-month liquidation period.