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The Moscow Times, July 9, 2004

All Eyes on What May Be Shuster's Last Show

By Caroline McGregor

"Svoboda Slova," one of NTV's most popular programs and the only political talk show on Russian television that is broadcast live, will air at 7:35 p.m. Friday in what is widely expected to be its final show.

On Thursday the program's host, Savik Shuster, confirmed only that it will be the last show of the season. The media community has speculated that he is saving the announcement of his show's fate for Friday's broadcast.

Vladimir Kulistikov, who was brought in from state channel Rossia and installed Monday as NTV general director, has said he is reviewing programs to determine the fall lineup.

The official version is that his discussions with Shuster and "Lichny Vklad" host Alexander Gerasimov, whose show is also thought to be on the chopping block, are continuing. Both shows had planned to break for the summer, but few expect them to reappear when the new season starts in September.

The consensus among insider sources is that Gerasimov will leave the channel, but Shuster may be considering an offer to stay on as deputy general director for documentary films, a post that has not previously existed.

The late-night news program "Strana i Mir" will run through the summer, Alexei Pivovarov, one of its anchors, told Kommersant. The newspaper speculated that if the show, the brainchild of ousted "Namedni" host Leonid Parfyonov, survives into the next season, it may be in a later time slot, at midnight, rather than at 10 p.m.

Kulistikov has said his goal is to bring back the viewers NTV has lost since Gazprom-Media took control in 2001 from businessman Vladimir Gusinsky.

NTV's management under Kulistikov's predecessor as general director, Nikolai Senkevich, was notoriously bad. But many fear that Kulistikov aims to move the channel away from its trademark emphasis on hard-hitting news toward entertainment.

"Svoboda Slova" is one of NTV's most popular shows, pulling in especially high ratings with its political debates during the past election campaign seasons. With high ratings come high advertising revenue.

Last Friday's show on "Capitalism, Putin-style," featuring a discussion of corporate responsibility, was NTV's top-rated show last week, according to TNS-Gallup Media data. It came in ahead of other contemporary affairs programs like "K Baryeru" and even ahead of the station's films and serials.

This Friday, "we'll talk about the bank crisis, we'll talk about the fight against the oligarchs," Shuster said.

Kommersant cited a staff member who said the production team had considered turning the show into a discussion of free speech, but Shuster dismissed this Thursday, saying he had no intention of making the discussion about himself.

Tamara Gavrilova was appointed NTV first deputy general director on Thursday, Interfax reported, citing the station's press service. Her responsibilities will include financial planning, legal and personnel policies and improving corporate management of the company.

Gavrilova had been deputy general director for NTV's parent company, Gazprom-Media.

She was a law school classmate of President Vladimir Putin's in St. Petersburg, and they worked together in former St. Petersburg Mayor Anatoly Sobchak's administration.


See also:

the original at

Freedom of Speech and Media Law in Russia

NTV Case

The Moscow Times, July 9, 2004

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