Freedom of speech is again questioned in Russia as a new manager from state television has come to head the formally private NTV network and some of the channel's programs have been closed. All the more so, as recently the NTV prohibited the political program Namedni (The Other Day) to broadcast an interview with the widow of Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev, a Chechen separatist leader killed in Qatar.
Some analysts believe that the reshuffle on the NTV is an example of the Putin-era state control over freedom of speech. Others, mostly TV business-related experts, maintain that the network has serious financial problems and the ratings of NTV programs are on the whole dropping. Still others do not believe the private channel has had an independent broadcasting policy ever since Yeltsin's presidency. The channel then appeared out of nowhere, as state-owned property became corporate in no time. But the generous gift was to be paid for: during the 1996 election campaign NTV journalists fully supported the incumbent president and thus lost any independence from the authorities.
The new general director, Vladimir Kulistikov, came from state television but earlier had worked at the NTV. Unlike his predecessor who was a doctor, Kulistikov is a journalist, so professionally the network is to gain from the change of management.
Apparently, the new management will be tougher. The company is in crisis, has lost many creative people, and, besides, the state television style is likely to manifest itself. Most probably, the new management will renew the staff and the viewing grid.
Time of information and entertainment may give way to information and analytical programs. Also, Kulistikov may bring significant investment and then the NTV will surprise the audience with new original projects. After all, there is no doubt that the channel will take into account the new information reality and will be unlikely to confront the authorities.