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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Production Firm to Start New Television Channel

Russia will have a fifth television channel broadcasting across the nation beginning Jan. 1, the directors of Ren TV, one of the country's largest production studios announced Monday.

"From the beginning of next year, Russia will have a new national all-encompassing channel, which will show serials, game shows, feature films from 20th Century Fox, documentaries, music, sport and news," Ren TV's general director, Dmitry Lesnyovsky, said at a press conference.

The station will broadcast on Moscow's Channel 49 and will be available free of charge across Russia via satellite. It will initially broadcast from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. daily, aiming to be on the air around the clock by the end of next year, Lesnyovsky said.

The company is already broadcasting footage from its archives for three or four hours daily on channel 49 "as a trial run," Lesnyovsky added.

A driving force behind the project appears to be Mayor Yury Luzhkov, who chairs the new station's supervisory council. Bank Moskva, which is the Moscow city government's bank, has provided a significant part of the investment required.

Ren TV president Irena Lesnyovskaya denied this would in any way affect the company's editorial independence.

"Yury Mikhailovich [Luzhkov] is a very modern person. He cooperates excellently with the press and was supported by 90 percent of the city's population, including the intelligentsia," Lesnyovskaya said.

"We are of one mind on many questions and I see no reason why he should interfere in our independence."

Ren TV was set up as a production company in December 1991 and supplies programming to ORT Russian Public Television and NTV Independent Television. However, once Ren TV has its own channel, it will no longer supply programs to other stations.

The company formerly owned a 3 percent share in ORT, but pulled out shortly after the murder of Vladislav Listyev, the station's newly appointed chief, in March 1991, Lesnyovsky said.

Ren TV directors refused to say how much the project cost or how much of it was funded by Bank Moskva's investment. The channel will also be financed by advertising, which will take up to 15 percent of airtime, Lesnyovsky said.

The four national television channels that Ren TV will join are ORT, RTR, TV-6 and Channel 4, which is soon to be in the hands of NTV.

In Moscow, Channel 49 would be the city's seventh, after ORT, RTR, Channel 4, Moscow Television, St. Petersburg Television -- which is Channel 5 -- and Channel 6.

But in launching into satellite broadcasting, Ren TV will have plenty of company.

NTV is launching a sister station called NTV+, which will broadcast by satellite on five channels starting this fall. But Lesnyovsky denied that it would be competition for Ren TV because NTV's satellite service will not be free.

"I have great respect for NTV. They produce some excellent programs, but because they will provide paid service they are not something we need to be worried about. Ren TV is free TV," he said.