Russian Public TV head quits in dispute

Move reflects nervous state of biz

MOSCOW — With Russia’s political world in crisis, Ksenia Ponomareva, director general of Public Russian Television (ORT) Channel 1, quit her post Sept. 1 after managerial clashes with political power-broker Boris Berezovsky.

In an interview with business daily Kommersant, Ponomareva said she resigned after learning that the evening newscast, Vremya, would be anchored by Sergei Dorenko, chief news producer for ORT.

She said she heard of the fait accompli from Dorenko himself shortly before broadcast, and that the decision should have been taken by herself, as head of the channel, rather than by representatives of its governing body.

Though she described the conflict as managerial rather than political, incident reflects the nervous state at Russia’s leading broadcaster as politicians struggle to find answers to the ongoing economic and political crises.

State has control

ORT is 51% owned by the state, with remaining equity divided between banking and industrial groups. Most influential of these is Berezovsky’s Logovaz.

As presenter of ORT’s weekly news analysis program, Dorenko has long been a controversial TV figure, who has never kept his political views and allegiances to himself.

Ponomareva expressed concern that his style and lack of neutrality would make him unsuitable as a news anchor.

ORT rudderless

ORT effectively remains without anyone at the helm — and will for the foreseeable future. Regulations require that a new director general can only be appointed at a full shareholders’ meeting, which must be announced 30 days in advance.

Berezovsky is rumored to be lobbying for Igor Shabdurasulov, currently a member of Yeltsin’s presidential administration, to succeed Ponomareva.

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