Will NTV’s licence be withdrawn?

The Russian NTV network is enjoying a lot of attention right now, as it was it was a year ago, when Vladimir Gusinsky was the central figure of the scandal. Now, it is Boris Jordan’s turn, the general director of the television network.

Russian Press Minister Mikhail Lesin announced yesterday that the agenda of the session of the Federal Competitive Committee included a question about the prolongation of NTV’s licence, which was going to expire on June 2. Kommersant newspaper reported with reference to a Press Ministry spokesperson that the frequency of the channel could be put up for auction, since NTV had a considerable number of infringements. However, it is not ruled out that the question pertaining to the prolongation of NTV’s licence came up because of the program Namedni, which was aired on Sunday. The program, which is hosted by Leonid Parfenov, aired a report about the new book by Deputy Secretary of State in the Clinton administration Strobe Talbott. As is well known, Talbott was a specialist of Russia, so he often visited Moscow. He had meetings with Russia’s senior officials, including ex-president Boris Yeltsin. Talbott described several incidents in his book, unattractively portraying the first Russian president. The whole world knew about Yeltsin’s affection for alcohol; he did not hide it himself, and he did not have any harsh reactions to such publications in the press. So why did Parfenov decide to talk about it again? Weren’t there any other interesting things in Talbott’s book? Moreover, Parfenov interviewed the former chief of the presidential security service, Alexander Korzhakov, who could not forgive Yeltsin for dismissing him in 1996. That is why Korzhakov took liberties and uttered several insulting statements in the address of the first Russian president.

As the mentioned newspaper reported, the program caused anger both amid Yeltsin’s milieu and the Kremlin officials, which resulted in rumors that NTV could be deprived of its licence.

NTV’s spokespeople assert, however, that there are no reasons to withdraw the licence from the company. A television company is supposed to be officially warned twice. Its has already happened once on April 22, for the lack of juvenile programs. However, the same warning was given to other major television channels, such as ORT, RTR, TVC, and even Culture.

Boris Jordan has reportedly written a letter to Yeltsin, presenting his apologies for the report in Parfenov’s program. Nevertheless, Aleksey Volin, the deputy chief of the governmental administration, stated in his interview to Kommersant that there was no need to connect that report and the decision to prolong NTV’s licence: “I hope that those two stories are not connected with each other. I did not see anything in the Namedni program that could raise doubts about the necessity to prolong the licence,” – he said.

Noone is going to withdraw the licence from NTV, to put it short. One may even suppose that this whole story was arranged with the goal of increasing NTV’s ratings. Needless to mention, nothing is more attractive than a properly arranged scandal, taking account of the fact that NTV has been experiencing problems with its audience lately. A small scandal could be very good, and Leonid Parfenov would be the best to fit the role, because he has one of the best programs on the Russian television. Boris Jordan does not worry much: “It will not be a big surprise for us, if they do not prolong our licence. I simply do not see any legal grounds.” The story will have a happy end for the company. However, if they really withdraw the licence and put it up for sale, then this will be something.

Novaya Gazeta photo: Leonid Parfenov

Vasily Bubnov PRAVDA.Ru

Translated by Dmitry Sudakov

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