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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Media Tycoons Alter Jazz Station's Format

Moscow yuppies who like to listen to soft jazz, blues and serious but unintrusive news on FM radio discovered Dec. 14 that their favorite station, Radio NSN, was replaced by a rougher Russian rock station, Nashe Radio, on the same frequency, 101.7.

Little did they know that the loss of the relaxing station also marked the beginning of a new media partnership between Russian tycoon-cum-politician Boris Berezovsky and Australian-born media magnate Rupert Murdoch, which may lead to much bigger projects, such as ORT television.

Oleg Ivanov, general director of Nashe Radio, said the station, which used to belong to Alexander Smolensky's troubled SBS-Agro bank, was purchased by a new company called LogoVAZ News Corp., or LNC.

Although on paper still the property of SBS-Agro subsidiary NSN, which distributes news and commentary on the Internet, the radio station was "in the process of a property transfer," Ivanov said in an interview Friday.

Russia's chief media regulator, Mikhail Seslavinsky, said at a recent news conference that his agency, FSTR, went after Nashe Radio for changing its broadcast format without obtaining a new government license. But the conflict was settled when the station owners applied for a new license, which was issued Jan. 5.

The source involved with the deal said the frequency was bought for $80,000. Ivanov said the price was an "absolute secret" and the deal was made "at the top level" - among Berezovsky, Murdoch and Smolensky.

Berezovsky's spokesman Vladimir Ruga confirmed Friday that Nashe Radio was the first joint project with Murdoch. He said he could not specify the amount paid. News Corp. spokesmen, reached by telephone in New York, said they could not comment on the deal.

In late December, Russia's biggest television station, ORT, announced that Berezovsky's LogoVAZ, Murdoch's News Corp., ORT and TV 6 planned to form an advertising agency that would sell time on the two television stations.

Negotiations over the advertising agency have been shrouded in mystery, with neither Berezovsky nor Murdoch willing to comment.

In the meantime, Russian media have alleged that Berezovsky's overtures to Murdoch go further, and a 20 percent stake in ORT could be sold to the Western magnate.

These reports generated a strong reaction from the Russian parliament and the government, which controls a 51 percent stake in ORT. Deputy Prime Minister Valentina Matviyenko said Thursday that the Cabinet "would never support" the sale of an ORT stake to a foreign company. "One cannot even speak about it," Matviyenko said, referring to the proposed deal as "blasphemy."

At Nashe Radio, however, the partnership is already a reality.

Mikhail Kozyrev, who made his name in the Russian media and music world as the producer of Radio Maximum and who now produces Nashe Radio, chose music with a broader appeal for his new project: quality Russian rock. He also brought along several popular DJs from his previous project.

Nashe Radio bills its concept as "honest, time-proven rock music in combination with today's most interesting music projects." It broadcasts old socially charged rock songs by groups like DDT, Alisa, Aria, ChaiF and Nautilius Pompilius as well as today's trendy pop and folk by Mumy Troll, Masha i Medvedi, Linda and Vopli Vidoplyasova.

Two-minute newscasts every hour, with popular-style news reports and weather forecasts, replaced NSN's quality news service.

Ivanov said NSN, whose listeners were mainly young professionals, could not sell enough ads, and 15 to 20 percent of its budget was subsidized by SBS-Agro.

The station is aiming to double or triple last year's rating of 0.8 to 0.9 percent.

The change has not played well with Radio NSN's fans. "We are still in shock," said Kseniya Ageyeva, a designer at Domashny Ochag, a women's magazine. "Now the frequency is impossible to listen to."

But Nashe Radio is acquiring its own devoted listeners. "The music is fantastic!" said Natalia Kharlamova, a sales representative. "They manage to pick up the best from Russian music."