New TV channel to improve Russia's image abroad

Broadcast of a 24-hour English-speaking information channel Russia Today (RTTV) might start as early as this fall, the Vedomosti daily reported Monday. Investing initially $25-30 million in the channel, bureaucrats plan to present English-speaking audiences with their own vision of Russia and its place in the world.

RTTV will be broadcast via satellite in Russia, other CIS countries, Europe, the U.S., and some Asian countries. The new channel is a project of RIA Novosti. The Rossia TV Channel, which is part of VGTRK state holding, will participate in some "joint projects" with RTTV, a VGTRK top executive said. Twenty-six-year-old Margarita Simonyan, who worked for the Rossia TV Channel in the "Kremlin pool," has been appointed editor-in-chief of the new channel. "Many leading countries have this TV format, and now we are ready to introduce it in Russia as well," Simonyan said.

The launch of RTTV is scheduled for this fall, two sources familiar with the details of the project said. The launch might coincide with the broadcast of President Putin's address to the UN scheduled for September, one of the sources said.

In China and European countries, satellite broadcasting of foreign countries is usually financed from the state budget or conducted on a subscription basis, director general of the Rodionov publishing house Alexei Volin said. However, one of the authors of the project believes initially Russia Today will be free-of-charge for viewers. He said by the end of 2005, investments in the project would reach $25-30 million, borrowed from commercial banks.

Experts predict it will be hard for RTTV to capture English-speaking audiences. Volin, who used to be responsible for public relations in the Kasyanov cabinet, "can hardly imagine a viewer" who would watch Russian news in English. "Everybody understands that the channel will have heavy censorship," director general of RBC Information systems (owns RBC TV channel) Yuri Rovensky said. RIA Novosti said a public council consisting of journalists, scientists, and businessmen would determine the editorial policy of the new channel.

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