This article was updated at 2:57 p.m.
MOSCOW — Russia’s last nongovernment-owned or -affiliated national news channel has thrown in the towel.
The future of national broadcaster TV6 was decided Monday after representatives of the owner, oligarch-in-exile Boris Berezovsky, announced that they had handed over the station’s frequency to the Sport channel until the end of the year.
TV6 was taken off the air in January 2002 and succeeded by TVS. This deal, which may be the last step in a labyrinthine political and financial saga, confirms that MNVK, a holding company 75% controlled by Berezovsky and which ran TV6, has reasserted its ownership and license for the channel.
MNVK won court battles last month declaring that its liquidation — which allowed the ministry to award the license to TVS — was illegal. Its victory coincided with Russian press minister Mikhail Lesin’s decision to take TVS off the air June 22.
Transmission was replaced by the national Sport channel within minutes of Lesin switching off the transmitter, making Monday’s deal a formality.
Officially, MNVK signed with Sport as a programming provider, with an extension option after its Dec. 31 expiration.
The legality of the transfer — unlikely to be questioned by Lesin’s ministry — looks dubious to many media observers, as the frequency was originally a general news and entertainment channel rather than a dedicated sports station.
The formal deal for the handover was between noncommercial entity Rosmediacom (partly owned by national pubcaster holding VGTRK), and state-owned banks.
No money is changing hands. Rosmediacom will assume responsibilities for MNVK’s outstanding debts on transmission, salaries and production costs, which are estimated at around $60 million.
TV6 and TVS were run by journalists led by Yevgeny Kiselyev, who abandoned national station NTV after a hostile management takeover in April 2001. TVS foundered last month after disagreements between its 12 shareholders.