Russian Oil Giant Moves to Buy Nation’s Sole Surviving TV Independent

14 January 2002

In a move that displeases the US State Department, newly bankrupt Russian TV company TV6 appears set for acquisition by Lukoil-Garant, the pension fund of oil giant OAO Lukoil.

Lukoil, which already owns 15% of TV6, on Friday instigated bankruptcy proceedings, arguing that TV6 is losing money and needs new management. The channel's executives disagree, claiming that finances and rating both are improving and that the Putin administration coerced Lukoil into filing the bankruptcy suit.

The liquidation order gives the state a green light to suspend TV6's broadcasting license and sell it to a new investor – a ruling accompanied Lukoil’s proclamations of eagerness to create a “new image” for the station. Such “new image”, fear Russian journalists and liberals, will be far less critical of Russian government policy than dissident exiled businessman Boris Berezovsky, until Friday owner of 75% of TV6.

Although Lukoil and the Kremlin denied any state involvement, US State Department spokesperson Richard Boucher pronounced last week: “There's a strong appearance of political pressure in the judicial process against the independent media.”

News source: Wall Street Journal