Web to be funded by tax-exempt donations, ad levy

A fully independent public television channel could be created in Russia under plans unveiled by lame duck president Dmitry Medvedev.

Medvedev, who is due to ankle following Sunday’s presidential election in which current prime minister Vladimir Putin is almost certain to win in the first round, plans to issue a presidential decree next month.

If he does, it will likely be one of his last acts as president before formally standing down ahead of the inauguration of the new president in early May.

The plans for the new channel, to be funded by tax-exempt donations and a levy on advertising from other networks, have been drawn up by film and TV industry reps on the Presidential Council on Human Rights.

Nailing his colors to a liberal agenda just days before an election that critics charge will be characterized by massive vote rigging to ensure Putin’s victory, Medvedev said the channel would not carry advertising and would be wholly independent of both government and private interests.

If the scheme — the cost of which has not been disclosed by the Kremlin — goes ahead, it is likely to use an existing public channel, such as Rossiya 2, Moscow’s TV Tsentr or Zvezda (Star TV), a patriotic military-themed channel launched several years ago.

Russia’s major public channels all carry advertising and combine public and private ownership.

Critics of Putin’s earlier two terms as president claim that investigative reporting on political and business issues have been effectively banned from the airwaves over the past decade.

In signs of some loosening of the reins, Russian channels have recently begun reporting the mass opposition rallies that have been taking place since parliamentary elections in December were marred by widespread fraud.

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