Union sez news slanted to gov’t

90% of net news is pro pols

Some 90% of Russian TV news is pro-government, according to a report from the country’s Union of Journalists, released Wednesday.

That won’t be a surprise to the couple of thousand who demonstrated in Moscow last month to mark the fifth anniversary of state-owned energy utility Gazprom’s hostile takeover of former indie station NTV.

However, other than one radio station and a few papers, such news doesn’t circulate outside Moscow.

Meanwhile, commentators who speak out against the Kremlin continue to be pushed out of mainstream terrestrial webs, as the government tightens its grip on the media ahead of presidential elections in 2008, when Vladimir Putin is skedded to step down.

On Monday, veteran news presenter Mikhail Osokin ankled NTV, the web he joined when it launched 10 years ago.

His latenight newscast was nixed at the end of January and he has been working on a documentary since then.

He starts at satellite web RTVI on May 1, which is financed by NTV founder Vladimir Gusinsky, who is in political exile in Israel.

Osokin rejoins a number of his old NTV colleagues at RTVI, which is based in Moscow even though RTVI isn’t available in territory. Its auds are concentrated in North America, Europe and Israel.

Another latenight newscaster, Ren-TV’s Olga Romanova, quit late last year after she was denied access to her studio.

She launched a bitterly sarcastic attack on the station, that is 70% owned by steel group Severstal and natural resources firm Surgutneftegaz and 30% owned by Euro-broadcasting giant RTL.

Pressure is even stepping up even on print media.

Despite talk of disposing of non-core assets, Gazprom continues picking up titles through its media subsid.

Not long ago it took over respected national daily Izvestiya from industrial holding Prof-Media, and staff departures and editorial changes followed.

Now local rumor has it that Prof-Media, owned by oligarch Vladimir Potanin, wants to sell Komsomolskaya Pravda, one of the widest read titles in Russia. One likely purchaser? Gazprom.

Business daily Kommersant is also said to be up for sale. Rumored interest has come, again, from Gazprom, as well as from a more unconventional source — Russia’s Railways Ministry.