Publication: Monitor Volume: 7 Issue: 101

Press Minister Mikhail Lesin and Oleg Dobrodeyev, head of the All-Russian State Television and Radio Broadcasting Corporation (VGTRK), traveled to the Siberian city of Novosibirsk earlier this week to move forward a project to set up a new television channel. The channel will service the Siberian federal district and is aimed at providing a counterbalance to media controlled by the governors of the regions that fall under the district’s jurisdiction. Lesin and Dobrodeyev met with Leonid Drachevsky, the president’s envoy to the Siberian federal district, to discuss the project, which will be headed by Yakov London, head of VGTRK’s affiliate in Novosibirsk.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the planned Siberian television channel is how it will be funded. Lesin said that no state funds would be used, but added that the issue of funding sources had not yet been settled. Several media, however, reported that Russian Aluminum, the giant holding run by Oleg Deripaska, would provide the needed money. Deripaska reportedly met with Lesin and Drachevsky on April 22 and agreed to provide a US$10 million loan for the project. According to a report today, Russian Aluminum’s main role will be to provide credits for the project and attract other investment, but it could end up becoming the new channel’s co-owner (Vedomosti, May 24). As the Gazeta.ru website noted, the channel will give the Kremlin “a powerful new propaganda instrument” (Gazeta.ru, May 22). If Russian Aluminum does indeed finance the project, the venture would mark a new level of cooperation between the state and big business in the task of centralizing the country’s information sources.

Russian Aluminum was formed last year, reportedly as a partnership between Deripaska, founder of the Siberian Aluminum company, and Roman Abramovich, who is said to control the Sibneft oil company and who was elected governor of the Chukotka region last December. Russian Aluminum reportedly controls over 70 percent of Russia’s aluminum production and owns Siberia’s major aluminum production facilities–the Bratsk, Krasnoyarsk, Sayansk and Novokuznetsk smelters. This week, Russian Aluminum reached a tentative agreement with the domestic insurance companies to insure all of its aluminum-related enterprises for US$12 billion (Moscow Times, May 23).