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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Bill Would Convert State TV to Public TV

The Culture and Press Ministry has drafted a bill that would turn state-controlled television into public television, Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref said at a Cabinet meeting on Thursday.

Gref said the legislation stemmed from President Vladimir Putin's order to create a broadcaster "free from the influences of various groups and interests," RIA-Novosti reported.

Gref appeared to be referring to Putin's state-of-the-nation address in April, during which he said that "state television [should] be as objective as possible and free from the influence of any specific groups but reflect the whole spectrum of public and political forces in the country."

Putin, however, did not raise the notion of public television, suggesting only that the Public Chamber be allowed to monitor television. The Federation Council approved an amendment to that end on Dec. 14, and Putin must now sign it into law.

Under the ministry's bill, public television would comprise existing state television and radio broadcasting companies and be controlled by a council that includes representatives of civil society, Gref said.

The state controls, directly or indirectly, Channel One, Rossia and NTV. The only other television channel with news content, Ren-TV, is controlled by private companies whose management is seen as loyal to the Kremlin.

Gref said that the ministry had submitted the bill to the Cabinet for consideration, but Deputy Culture and Press Minister Leonid Nadirov said that the bill first had to be approved by several federal agencies, Interfax reported.

Igor Yakovenko, head of the Russian Union of Journalists, welcomed the bill. But he said he was unfamiliar with its specific content and regretted that key experts and public figures were not involved in its drafting.

 The board of TV Center, the Moscow city government-controlled television channel, decided not to renew general director Oleg Poptsov's contract on Wednesday, saying he had to focus on two other City Hall projects -- a media center and a publishing business.

Poptsov said he did not know whether his dismissal was linked to a recent show he hosted during which he discussed current affairs with an empty chair, Interfax reported. He said on the show that he was talking to Putin.

 BBC radio's Russian service went off the air in Moscow, St. Petersburg and Yekaterinburg on Thursday. BBC producer Vera Leontiyeva blamed the outage on a technical problem, Interfax reported.