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Belarus to get Russian-backed channel

TV Center-Bel, Moscow's digital satcaster Center TV to partner

MOSCOW — A Russia-Belarus-backed TV channel devoted to events in Belarus is being prepped.

TV Center-Bel will partner Moscow’s digital satcaster Center TV, closely aligned to the city government, and ad agency Vavilen in Belarus capital, Minsk.

Initial agreements were signed last week during a visit to Minsk by Center TV’s prexy Oleg Poptsov, a broadcast vet well known for supporting former president Boris Yeltsin in the early 1990s. He is the former chairman of the All-Russian State TV & Radio Co.

Advertising-funded Center TV bowed in 1997, and its footprint covers half of Russia, some CIS countries and the Baltic states. It broadcasts on average 20 hours a day.

Belarus, under its confrontational president Alexander Lukashenko, has been described by Western observers as the last dictatorship in Europe. The Kremlin cherishes plans to reunite Russia and Belarus. Both countries have economic and linguistic ties — and stimulating integration is cited as one of the new station’s goals.

Programming details have yet to be unveiled. Satellite transmission could reach most of Russia and Belarus via Center’s TV existing providers.

Startup costs range from an estimated $500 million, suggested in the local press, to a more modest $517,000, suggested on CTV’s Web site. That is due to be split between the two sides.

However, industryites expect the governments in Russia and Belarus to pony up coin.

It’s not the first new station in the region in which propaganda will likely play a greater role than commerce.

Russia Today TV channel, broadcasting 24 hours in English around the world, will launch this fall — something which wouldn’t be possible without support from Russian authorities.

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