In response to protests, Russia plans new TV
Russia's outgoing President Dmitry Medvedev on Tuesday made a partial concession to the nascent protest movement by vowing to launch a new publicly-controlled TV channel by the end of the year.
But he also signalled the state's intentions to closely monitor the new outlet by revealing that its editor would be announced by his successor Vladimir Putin before it begins fully operating on January 1.
Medvedev said the president would also have the right to sack the editor.
"The station is public and will not belong to the state in the strict sense of the word," Medvedev said in televised remarks.
"The state obviously has influence over everything. But this influence should not be excessive," he added.
Most Russian television fell under strict Kremlin control during Putin's first two years as president between 2000 and 2008.
The wave of Moscow street protests that preceded his election to a new six-year term in March were partially fed by fears that the Kremlin's dominance over society would only grow in the years to come.
Some protest leaders such as Leonid Parfyonov -- a star of the NTV network that was raided and overtaken by the state in 2000-2001 -- called for the creation of new public channels whose contents would be decided outside government walls.
But the ideas mentioned by Medvedev thus far have been criticised by many as differing little from what Russia has today.
Medvedev said the station would be set up on state money but then operate through its own endowment that receives contributions from ordinary Russians and various firms.
He also barred state officials from serving on the channel's board.
Russia's main independent news on television today comes from a tiny private broadcaster called Rain (Dozhd).
The network's on-air personalities are dominated by 20-somethings who often openly wear the symbolic white protest ribbons on their lapels.
Moscow Echo also provides a venue for the opposition. The radio station has been controlled for years by the media arm of the state gas firm Gazprom but avoided most state pressure because of the contacts of its chief editor.
© 2012 AFP