Russia’s premier TV channel, Ostankino, may be taking its first steps toward privatized independence more slowly than originally planned, but the appointment of a new CEO in early February could speed things up.

Vladislav Listev was previously head of one of Russia’s leading indie production companies, VID, and the host of popular TV shows like the quiz “Chas Pik” (Rush Hour) and “Pole Chudes” (Field of Wonders). He’s also Ostankino’s first CEO with a non-bureaucratic face.

His appointment is the first tangible sign of the privatization, which was announced Nov. 30, in a surprise decree from Russian President Boris Yeltsin.

Renamed as Public Russian Television (ORT), Ostankino is a shared venture between the State Property Committee, with a controlling 51% of stock, and 12 major shareholders, mainly commercial banks such as Inkombank and Stolichny, but also including Aeroflot Intl. Airlines, ITAR-TASS and Russia’s automotive giant VAZ. ORT’s announced starting time of February 1995 has now been pushed back two months to April.

Former Ostankino chief and perestroika ideologue, Alexander Yakoviev, stays on at ORT for the time being as president of the board, but his role is likely to be a formal one.

At least one of ORT’s problems won’t be financial: Yeltsin’s November decree allowed ORT to continue to transmit its signal at the favorable rates established for national companies. Rates for private companies such as NTV are up to three times higher, and as much as 80% of Ostankino’s budget currently goes on transmission fees.

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