VGTRK tax debt postponed, staff to be cut
MOSCOW — Russia’s newly formed media holding body, VGTRK, has received favorable fiscal terms for future development, chairman Mikhail Shvydkoi told a news conference.
The announcement was VGTRK’s first public statement since the government decree consolidating all Russian public holdings — principally Channel 2 (RTR) and Kultura TV stations — was signed June 10.
Payment of the org’s existing tax debt, said to hover around $200 million, has been postponed for three years, while purchases of equipment for planned modernization of facilities will be freed from import duties over a five-year period.
On a bleaker note, Shvydkoi forecast big cuts in the organization’s 4,200-plus staff.
Shvydkoi took great care to reassure private competitor stations that the new body, which will also bring together existing national transmission facilities, will not compromise their interests.
“If I were ever to be instructed to turn off the switch for NTV or Channel 1 ORT, I would first of all tender my resignation. Someone else will have to do it instead of me,” said Shvydkoi, claiming that there was little difference between the current and previous system.
However, he didn’t deny that the decision to create the holding company was a conscious attempt by government structures to consolidate their hold on the media.