Russian public television (ORT) has canceled the highly-rated political talk show Versii (Versions), and squeezed out its host Sergei Dorenko from the company. According to ORT’s director Sergei Blagovolin, this decision was dictated, not by political but by purely professional considerations, and also by a shortage of funds for the program. He said that, in fact, the program had very low ratings, and cost up to $ 400,000 a month. But the show’s producer, Irena Lesnevskaya, said that the real grounds for canceling Dorenko’s show was its frequent criticism of the government and its policy in Chechnya. The commercial television station Independent TV (NTV) said that it is considering buying Dorenko’s production. NTV’s president Igor Malashenko said that the show’s cancellation was a clampdown on free speech in Russia. (9)
It is no secret that ORT, despite proclaiming itself not to be a government channel, is in fact just that, and is also financed by the government. Dorenko, who was initially an enthusiastic Yeltsin supporter, became more independent over the years. His professional independence was apparently seen as too challenging by ORT management.
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