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St. Petersburg TV wins b’cast bid

Web chosen over Ren-TV, Domashny, others

A St. Petersburg station should be broadcasting to 41 regions of Russia by the fall, after winning the bidding for a frequency Wednesday.

Russia’s federal licensing commission picked Petersburg TV (PTV) over competing applications from Ren-TV, the CTC-Media affil Domashny (Home) channel, the military-aligned Star channel and a kids’ station that draws on resources from Russia’s MTV offshoot.

Many observers saw the result as a foregone conclusion, as the web was backed by St. Petersburg Gov. Valentina Matviyenko who had lobbied for it at Kremlin level.

The decision returns federal broadcasting status to Russia’s northern capital. Back in 1998 frequencies for then-Petersburg Fifth Channel were allocated to the new arts station Kultura, leaving the former available only in the city and its surrounding region.

PTV gave its bid a strong regional emphasis, promising interactive broadcasting, correcting a perceived Moscow bias.

To date, the web does not have Moscow exposure — a factor that could prevent it competing for ad revenue.

Rumors have been circulating of a link-up between PTV and Moscow-based Ren-TV. Industrial holding Severstal Group has a 35% stake in Ren-TV and 18% in PTV. Another 18.5% is owned by the St. Petersburg city authorities.

After paying a $1 million license fee, PTV must invest heavily in improving facilities, with local players suggesting upward of $20 million as a starting spend on the technical front, before program costs.

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