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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

No Violent Showdown Expected in TV Dispute

Gazprom may find a way to tear apart NTV's embattled editorial team in its bid to take control of the channel, but the gas giant is unlikely to resort to force because it can ill afford the international uproar that would certainly follow, analysts said Thursday.

"Russia is not a country of compromises, but I hope one will be achieved [in NTV's case]," said Andrei Ryabov, analyst at the Moscow Carnegie Center.

A standoff between defiant NTV management and Gazprom subsidiary Gazprom-Media, which elected a new NTV board after a controversial shareholders meeting Tuesday, stretched into the evening Thursday. The warring sides agreed to start negotiations Friday, in a signal that Gazprom-Media and its head, Alfred Kokh, may be trying to find a solution to a feud that has raised a red flag among free press supporters worldwide.

Both parties are going into talks firmly entrenched in their beliefs that the other side is wrong.

One possible outcome being tossed around in media circles Thursday was a deal in which Gazprom-Media would agree to withdraw its pinch hitters Kokh, elected Tuesday as NTV's chairman, and new general director Boris Jordan, in exchange for NTV general director Yevgeny Kiselyov's resignation.

Click here to read our special report on the Struggle for Media-MOST.Then CNN founder Ted Turner, who intends to buy a stake in NTV, could act as a peacemaker by overseeing the selection of journalists, editors and managers, Ryabov said. Such a move would allow those protesting Gazprom's attempted takeover to keep their jobs.

NTV founder Vladimir Gusinsky says he is negotiating with TV6 owner Boris Berezovsky on a deal that would allow NTV journalists to move to TV6.

However, some of the staff may succumb to pressure and defect to Gazprom-Media, said Irina Petrovskaya, media analyst for the Izvestia daily.

Several key figures, including former news director Vladimir Kulistikov, chief editor Oleg Dobrodeyev and reporter Yevgeny Revenko threw in the towel months before this week's standoff. Faced with the possibility of losing their high-paying jobs, other members of the staff could call it quits to avoid a showdown with Gazprom-Media should it seize control, Petrovskaya said.

Media law analyst Andrei Richter said that, from all appearances, it seemed Gazprom-Media had installed its managers at NTV without violating the law. At the shareholders meeting Tuesday, the company had voted with the support of Capital Research Management, which gave it a combined stake of more than 50 percent in NTV.

The decision made Tuesday could be challenged in court, but any lawsuits would quickly be thrown out due to Gazprom's political clout, Richter said.

Other observers, however, held out Thursday in hope that President Vladimir Putin would step in and sort out the fray. Alexei Pankin, editor of the Sreda magazine, said Putin could solve the conflict by transforming NTV into a television channel backed by public funds. Sreda has calculated that NTV would have an annual budget of $100 million a year if each household with a television set paid $6 a year, he said.

Ryabov countered, however, that making a channel a publicly funded venture would not ensure it independence because Russian journalists have no established tradition of balanced coverage.