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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Moratorium on TV6 Tender Is Needed

Since the arbitration court delivered its final verdict on the liquidation of TV6, the behavior of the parties to the conflict (and the coverage of it) has seemed totally schizophrenic. Any nonsense has acquired a ring of truth to it and, even worse, could easily become reality, while doubts start to cloud things which otherwise seemed self-evident.

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Let us recall some recent events. The TV6 editorial team abandoned Boris Berezovsky and then returned to him. A channel was taken off air literally mid-sentence. The president, prime minister and press minister publicly proclaimed their sympathies for the TV6 editorial team, and then a little later the president supported by a deputy prime minister enunciated the idea of creating a national sports channel. Rumors circulate, are denied and then sally forth again concerning all sorts of exotic participants in the forthcoming tender for the license previously held by TV6 -- such as the Orthodox Church. There is also talk of some oligarch fund in support of "TV6 without Berezovsky."

My biggest fear is that given these circumstances, irrespective of the outcome, the tender will not be considered entirely legitimate.

Put yourself in the position of the management of a "normal" television company wishing to take part in the tender on March 27, and seeing that no less a person than President Vladimir Putin himself has publicly supported two different contenders.

And what should the members of the tender commission make of it all? The "dependents" (i.e. civil servants) will feverishly attempt to divine the constantly changing mood and inclination of the powers-that-be. The"independents" will above all be gripped by a desire to defend the "innocent victims" and God forbid that there be even the slightest whiff of collaboration with the authorities.

Yet this is a professional tender to choose the best possible broadcaster based on the quality of the business plan and concept for development of the channel submitted.

So what next? If TV6 wins, it is not hard to predict that interpretations will range from "the authorities have once again given the license to their favorites" to "the administration has yielded to pressure from the West." If TV6 loses, then it will be "further encroachment on the freedom of the press." And if some third party puts forward such a perfect bid that the commission members forgetting all else happily vote for it, quite simply no one will believe that some dirty deal was not struck. Both the commission and the company in question would instantly be branded as collaborators.

Although, maybe one should just say, "To hell with legitimacy." A few weeks after the tender decision, passions would cool and just about any channel broadcasting on the TV6 frequency would be able to find an audience.

The root problem is that our national television, whether state-owned or private, was created hastily on the basis of informal agreements and opaque schemes. The people involved have changed, agreements have been broken, but neither the state nor the television companies can defend their interests by appealing to the law.

The result is an ongoing and unending national television squabble, with tens of millions of television viewers dragged into it, doing untold damage to the international prestige of this country.

The best solution, in my opinion, would be to declare a moratorium on the TV6 tender, however unpleasant that may be for all concerned. The president should then declare as a top state priority the establishment of a broadcasting regulatory framework, and invite Russian and foreign experts -- not just from the media world -- to work on it.

If Russia wishes to become a normal democratic country, it will have to do this sooner or later. If we start right now, we will save ourselves the headache of having to deal with the consequences of acts of foolishness that have yet to be committed.

Alexei Pankin is the editor of Sreda, a magazine for media professionals (www.internews.ru/sreda)