News Corporation, still in shock after Lachlan Murdoch's bombshell exit last weekend [WAMN: 01-Aug-05], is in acquisition talks with the owners of Ren TV - the sole Russian channel still outside state ownership.

This is terrain the wily septuagenarian patriarch knows well, having successfully negotiated similar TV deals in communist China by staying well clear of any policy that might be deemed a political or ideological challenge to the state.

NewsCorp and Ren TV's owner - the privately owned Severstal Group, which holds a controlling 69.9% stake in the channel - have both confirmed that talks are in progress.

These could result in NewsCorp allying itself to Bertelsmann's RTL Group, which in July bought a 30% stake in the channel. NewsCorp evp Marty Pompadur has publicly declared that the Murdoch company "would be glad" to work alongside RTL.

Although the size of NewsCorp's likely stake is unknown, it would be restricted by a local law blocking any foreign or Russian entity that has alien shareholders from owning more than 50% of a TV channel.

Ren TV, founded in 1997, has a potential nationwide audience of 97 million. It is the only channel with regular news programming that has not been brought under state control.

Given the Kremlin's current sensitivity to criticism, Murdoch may well be seen as a favoured bidder. As local media specialist Andrei Richter puts it: "Murdoch never makes enemies of the local government."

Data sourced from; additional content by WARC staff