While the battle for NTV was escalating inside Russia, CNN founder Ted Turner, who last week announced that he had struck a deal with Gusinsky to buy shares in Media-Most, put out several statements related to the controversy. In one statement, released April 7, Turner called on NTV’s journalists and employees to “remain patient and calm” while he negotiated with Gazprom-Media, which owns 46 percent of NTV. While details of the deal have not yet been made public, the Moscow Times today quoted a source “close to the negotiations” as saying that Turner intends to buy 11 percent of NTV from Gusinsky and 19 percent from Gazprom, leaving Gusinsky with 20 percent of NTV but without the right to vote with his shares (Moscow Times, April 9).
Turner also released a statement outlining ten “principles” by which he would be guided in relation to NTV. The most significant of these:
–Number 1: The channel’s editorial policy will be independent of its owners, the government and “any political or power group.”
–Number 7: “NTV will not place itself in opposition to the government of Russia or any party, political group or person.”
–Number 8: NTV will “resist corruption and disinformation.”
–Number 9: NTV journalists will raise questions–“even the most difficult and contradictory”–but will refrain from giving “answers or interpretations,” leaving that up to the viewers (NTV, April 7; Izvestia, April 9).
It is difficult to see how–particularly in the context of Russian politics–some of these principles (no. 1 and no. 8, for example) would not come into conflict with one another. It is equally unclear who would determine what constitutes “opposition,” “corruption” or “disinformation,” or, for that matter, determine what is a fact and what is an opinion, given that establishing facts in Russia is much more difficult to do then it is elsewhere.
Meanwhile, Igor Shabdurasulov, head of the Moscow television channel TV-6, said April 6 that Gusinsky and his erstwhile rival Boris Berezovsky, who recently formalized his ownership of TV-6, have begun a “feasibility study” of the possibility of merging TV-6 with TNT, Gusinsky’s regional network. While the resulting merged network could provide a new home for the ousted NTV journalists, this would be a rather ironic, given that the journalists would then be working for Berezovsky, who in the past was Gusinsky’s implacable foe and who helped bring Vladimir Putin to power (Moskovsky Komsomolets, April 9).
ARMENIA: PRECIOUS METALS AND BRANDY VS CORRUPTION, TAXES AND LAW ENFORCEMENT.