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Turner cohort wins Moscow TV license

Turner Intl. appears to have won its bid to become part owner of a Russian broadcaster.

Moscow Independent Broadcasting Corp., the Russian TV company that is teaming up with Turner, has won a five-year license for the last remaining VHS signal inside Moscow.

Mikhael Poltoranin, Russian Minister for Information, awarded the license Nov. 19. MIBC and Turner now plan to set up a joint venture.

The new station, TV-6 Moscow, is due on the air by January. Turner will provide half the programming, including two hours of CNN live in the evenings. A total of 100 movies and 200 cartoons from the Turner library have been shipped to Moscow for launch day.

MIBC was first awarded the license last year. But the Russian authorities changed their minds and decided to put the signal out for competitive bidding. The license was awarded “on merit”– with no monetary bids–in a five-cornered fight. Turner helped MIBC prepare its entry.

Late entries into the fray included Radio Europa Plus–a French-Russian joint venture that owns a pop music radio station and supplies programs to St. Petersburg TV–and Arguments and Facts, Russia’s largest circulation newspaper, which teamed with Sweden’s TV-3.

Two purely Russian bids came from Television University Foundation Moscow and Business Line.

MIBC claims to be the first broadcaster completely independent of political control. It is headed by Edward Sagalaev, a former director of Ostankino.

Sagalaev and three other individuals own 51% of the shares. They aim to put their personal stamp on the station.

Nougzad Popkhadze, deputy general director of MIBC, said: “Turner was adamant that this would be a Russian channel.

For us that is very important. Other foreigners just wanted to show their own programs.”

Other partners include Vid, which currently supplies Ostankino’s slickest programming and is likely to provide much of the Russian input for TV-6 Moscow.

TV-6 Moscow will be launched into a far more competitive environment than existed a year ago.

Says Farrell Meisel, Turner International’s director of operations for TV-6 Moscow: “There is no question that TV here is heating up. It’s becoming contemporary. We are seeing new things every day –an influx of Western programs and improvements in presentation.”

MIBC is already experimenting with broadcasting CNN in the evenings, but for most Muscovites the picture is as snowy as the street outside.

It should take about six months to upgrade the signal so that all 9 million Muscovites can receive TV-6 Moscow loud and clear. Many homes will have to be fitted with special converters and antennas.

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