New chief for Russian net

Kiselyev new director general at TVS

MOSCOW — Management changes at Russian channel TVS could cause upsets among staffers, following the appointment of Oleg Kiselyev as new director general at a late night board meeting in Moscow Sept. 18.

Kiselyev, whose Media-Socium holding owns 7.5% of the channel, replaced veteran Alexander Levin, who had previously worked as chief producer at NTV. The majority of TVS’ current staffers ankled NTV for TV6 after a hostile management takeover in spring 2001. TV6 was subsequently taken off air in January, but staffers won a license auction in March, with Levin as director general, and resumed broadcasting in June as TVS.

The whole process was politically controversial, revolving around the conflict between former TV6 majority owner Boris Berezovsky and the Kremlin. Both at NTV and TV6, staffers, led by Yevgeny Kiselyev (no relation of the new TVS topper), followed a political line that was often critical of Russian president Vladimir Putin and his administration.

TVS returned to the air with a new corporate structure, in which 12 influential business groups each held a 7.5% stake, while 10% remained with journalists, in a compromise move brokered by local politicians.

Even before the board meeting, influential staffers, among them presenter Victor Shenderovich, made no secret of their support for Levin, and said that they would leave the station in the event of his losing his post. Another strongly tipped candidate was journalist Girgory Krichevsky, Levin’s former deputy.

In a bid to defuse tension, Kiselyev immediately offered Levin the role of deputy, with greater production rather than management responsibilities.

The management overhaul is widely viewed as an expression of dissatisfaction from the channel’s investors at ratings and ad revenue over the summer months.

In Moscow, TVS is ranked fourth with around 8%, while news programming — which remained one of its priorities — are perceived to have lost previous authority. Outside the Russian capital it was trailing further, behind two entertainment-driven webs, TNT and CTC.

Even given expected lower summer ad revenues before traditional September new schedules went out, revenue for the period was estimated by local analysts at around $3 million. In addition, its major summer show, the third episode of reality series “Behind the Glass,” titled “You’re in the Army Now,” failed to match the success of previous versions.

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