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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Ivanov Asks Fradkov to Back Patriotic TV

APPrime Minister Mikhail Fradkov
Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov has written a letter to Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov asking for federal assistance to launch a patriotic television channel called Zvezda, or Star, as part of the military's battle for the hearts and minds of conscription-age men, officials said Thursday.

The Jan. 18 letter, excerpts of which were published in Kommersant on Thursday, asks that technical support and other resources be provided to the Defense Ministry's television company, Zvezda, so it can broadcast in at least 51 of the country's 89 regions -- the prerequisite for a channel to be recognized as national.

Ivanov suggests in the letter that Fradkov order the IT and Communications Ministry and the Culture and Press Ministry to issue the broadcasting license and other permits that Zvezda needs to be launched.

The channel will be bankrolled from the federal budget as "a socially important media outlet," and it will engage in "forming effective informational and ideological influences to ensure the social activities of Russian citizens," Ivanov wrote, according to Kommersant.

Ivanov, a close ally of President Vladimir Putin, lashed out at television programming at a Cabinet meeting last month, saying that "the moronization of the people must be stopped."

Ivanov has been pushing for the establishment of a patriotic, pro-military channel for several years. The channel would show war documentaries, military reports and a variety of films.

An official in the prime minister's office expressed doubt Thursday that the government would support the idea.

"The government has many expenses, and it is unclear whether it can find the money for the project," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

An IT and Communications Ministry spokesman, Pavel Morozov, said the ministry had received Ivanov's proposal Thursday and would consider it Monday.

The Defense Ministry declined to comment.

If Zvezda is launched, it will have little impact on patriotism and serve mainly as a propaganda tool for the Defense Ministry, said Manana Aslamazyan, director of Internews Russia, a media freedom watchdog.

While the military would like its own national channel, there are a limited number of frequencies, and an influential Putin adviser, former Press Minister Mikhail Lesin, has an eye on taking one of them over to set up a 24-hour news channel.

Lesin said the concept for the news channel is still in the works, but he would like it to broadcast on the frequency now used by Moscow City Hall-controlled TV Center, Nezavisimaya Gazeta reported Thursday.

TV Center's license for the frequency expires in May, and "a cable channel would be enough for a municipal television channel, which TV Center in fact is," Lesin was quoted as saying.

The Moscow branch of the liberal Yabloko party slammed Lesin's proposal as a disguised assault by the Kremlin on independent press.

"Despite how attractive the Kremlin's media projects look, they become outlets of agitation and propaganda, not information," Yabloko said in a statement.

TV Center is the only national channel not controlled by federal authorities or state-owned entities. The others are Channel One, Rossia and NTV.

TV Center president Oleg Poptsov and his deputy, Vyacheslav Mostovoi, could not be reached for comment.