Russia’s ORT faces test

Duma threatens restructuring of b'caster

MOSCOW — Only days after taking over as acting head of Russia’s Channel 1 ORT, Director General Igor Shabdurasulov faces a challenge from Russia’s parliament, the Duma, which is threatening to effectively renationalize the broadcaster.

Relations between the two parties have often been sticky, most recently during political bargaining over approval of Russia’s Prime Minister.

Duma representatives have demanded greater influence in governing bodies controlling the country’s main broadcaster in return for offering potential support to Victor Chernomydrin. Now, Communist deputy Oleg Finko, who heads the Duma’s Information Committee, is putting forward a bill, scheduled for debate in October, that would examine the legal basis of ORT’s 1994 privatization when 49% of the channel’s shares were transferred to leading local financial and industrial holdings.

If legal shortfalls can be found in the process, the Duma would insist on such stakes being returned to state control, allowing for possible compensation for shareholders.

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