Euronews makes surprise Russia bow

Some call launch airwave hijacking

MOSCOW — Euronews made a surprise launch in Russia Tuesday in a dawn raid that poached screen time from local terrestrial station MTV-Russia. Euronews signals started transmission at 6:30 a.m. on the Telexpo frequencies in a move which Kirill Lysko, director general of Telexpo and VP of MTV-Russia, described as absolutely unexpected.

Telexpo has a license through summer 2003 to broadcast morning and latenight blocks on the frequency devoted to the Kultura culture channel.

Euronews, a joint project between U.K. news service ITN and local pubcaster RTR, began limited cable broadcasting on Sept. 11, a week before schedule, in response to the terrorist attacks on the U.S. It now airs round-the-clock on selected cablers but has been promised 12 hours of terrestrial broadcasting time by the government.

On Sept. 26, it won a frequency competition to develop the unused Channel 25, which will reach 90% of Moscow and 70% of its surrounding region. A spokesman promised broadcasting would begin in three months but outside observers reckoned it could take a year to bring the new frequency into use. And, it seems, Euronews wasn’t prepared to wait.

Mikhail Seslavinsky, Russia’s deputy press minister, said Tuesday that his ministry had been conducting intensive negotiations with Telexpo about use of its frequencies for 10 days, so Euronews will probably find a home on the station. But his explanation that MTV-Russia already broadcasts on Channel 38 and so was unaffected by the Euronews bow looks inadequate for what some have called an airwave hijacking.

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