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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

NTV President Switching to Public Relations

A key figure in the Russian media is about to leave his post in what would become the second major change in leadership of Russian national television this week.

Igor Malashenko is expected to resign as president of the NTV television channel to start a new career in image-making, according to the NTV press service. The idea of launching a public relations firm is one that Malashenko has long cherished, a press service spokesperson said.

On Wednesday, Malashenko flew to London on a business trip which "might be connected with this idea," said NTV spokesperson Maria Shakhova.

Earlier this week Nikolai Svanidze replaced Eduard Sagalayev as chairman of RTR, the government-owned Channel 2, for reasons that are not entirely clear.

"I think that these are links in one chain," said Viktor Gaft, director of Image-Contact political consulting firm. He said he believes that a "major redeployment" of political and financial forces is underway, but that so far its direction is uncertain.

Yassen Zassoursky, dean of the Journalism Department of Moscow State University, said such changes in the media are not surprising after last year's presidential electoral campaign, when "propaganda won over journalism."

Three years ago, when NTV was created as an independent channel by a group of leading television journalists with financial backing from businessman Vladimir Gusinsky, it was welcomed as a fresh voice that would break the government's monopoly on television broadcasting. But as the presidential election campaign unfolded last year, the voice of NTV became strongly pro-Yeltsin. NTV president Malashenko officially joined Yeltsin's campaign team to manage media relations.

The NTV press service denied earlier reports that Malashenko is going to join the new Media Most holding company, which was created in late January by Gusinsky. In January, Gusinsky quit his position as head of MOST-Bank and the Most Group holding company to run MOST's media outlets, which include, besides NTV, Echo Moscow radio, the Segodnya daily newspaper, and the magazines Itogi and 7 Dnei.

Shakhova acknowledged there had been "some friction between Malashenko and Gusinsky" recently, although she declined to elaborate and added that the friction has been smoothed over.

"I think that such openness by the press service indicates that it is part of an effort to distance Malashenko and Gusinsky in the public eye to enable Malashenko to have a broader circle of partners and clients," said Gaft, referring to the future public-relations company.

Media critics say the relationship between Gusinsky and Malashenko has not been that of dictator and underling. "Malashenko behaved quite independently. He was a partner and not a subordinate," said Alexei Simonov, president of the Glasnost Defense Foundation. The change in Gusinsky's status could be one of the possible explanations for Malashenko's departure, he speculated.