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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

RTR to Cut Staff After Giving Up Channel 4

Russian State Television and Radio, or RTR, is to halve its staff this fall as it hands most of Channel 4 to NTV Independent Television, a senior RTR official confirmed Friday.

The move, which the source said would be implemented with the beginning of the new television season in September, ends a long struggle by NTV for a channel of its own.

At present, RTR's educational "Russian Universities" program has the channel from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., when it is replaced by NTV, which broadcasts late into the night.

The official said under the new system RTR would have only three hours of airtime daily on Channel 4. He said the company currently employs more than 4,000 people, a few hundred of whom work for "Russian Universities."

The source said he believed the handover to have been ordered by President Boris Yeltsin.

NTV editor Stanislav Mormitko refused to confirm the report Friday, although Interfax had reported the company's acquisition of Channel 4 as early as July. At the time, RTR officials also refused to comment.

While NTV has long sought to gain full-time access to Channel 4, the source attributed its recent success in part to NTV president Igor Malashenko's participation in the recent election campaign, in which he served as an advisor on President Boris Yeltsin's team.

"There's no doubt that this strengthened his position," the source said. "But it was also a chain reaction. It was no coincidence that he got that job because he was a widely respected man -- but then getting the job also opened a number of other doors, such as Channel 4."

While RTR chairman Eduard Sagalayev was initially a vehement opponent of NTV's demands for Channel 4, he softened his position as Malashenko gained political clout, the source said, adding that financial pressures on his company were an additional factor. "Finally, Sagalayev decided there was simply no point in continuing that fight," he said.

The source said that at present only 30 percent of the funds allocated to RTR by the federal budget actually reach the company. He said advertisements bring in roughly the same amount, leaving the company unable to meet about 40 percent of its financial needs.

"We simply did not have the resources to broadcast on two channels," he said," adding that employees were already afraid for their futures."Of course it's a painful move," he said.

Channel 4 currently broadcasts as far as the Urals, although NTV reaches audiences as far east as Vladivostok by satellite.

NTV will also broadcast five new satellite channels featuring foreign and domestic films, sports, news and music, the Russian daily Segodnya reported Friday.

The new satellite project, NTV+, will be accessible in central Russia this fall. Initially it will be free of charge, with subscription fees materializing at about $10 per month from early 1997. The company expects about 100,000 to 200,000 subscriptions.