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Toni Schönfelder
A lifetime of innovation

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Toni Schönfelder
A lifetime of innovation

Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2002. Page 10 An Orthodox Bank and TV Channels? By Yulia Latynina At the end of 2000, two of the five national channels were state-run. A year later and there are no private national stations left. TV6 has suffered the same fate as NTV, but with one major difference. NTV was devoured by the victors, who were united in the division of the property of those who had backed the wrong horse in the presidential elections. Now, there is no unity within the Kremlin. The old guard from the Yeltsin era and the new St. Petersburgers have locked horns,, and if one team wants to get rid of TV6 then the other will support the channel. The president has virtually removed himself from deciding the fate of the channel. The word is that the leader of the hunt for TV6s frequency license is Mezhprombank owner and presidential confidant Sergei Pugachyov -- an obscure and somewhat sinister figure. Pugachyov is not some Putin protege plucked from obscurity like Alexei Miller or Sergei Ivanov. He was very close to Pavel Borodin, and the money for Mabetex flowed through his bank. Also, it was Mezhprombank that issued Yeltsins daughters with the infamous credit cards. Pugachyov also is the most influential bearer of Orthodox ideas in the presidents entourage. He introduced the president to Father Tikhon. And he lobbies for the creation of an "Orthodox bank," evidently tasked with counterbalancing "Jewish capital." When a banker who was living on the Cote dAzur and was implicated in the most dubious of the Yeltsin-era scandals not only becomes a devout believer, but also manages to cement the main link between the head of state and the church, it is hard to refrain from making the kind of accusations that are often leveled against the founders of modern-day sects, i.e. that their true faith and possibly a not entirely stable psychology paradoxically combine with a very earthy knack to convert their faith into boundless influence and large amounts of money -- often to the detriment of the spiritual health of the nation and its rulers. There is no doubt that people of Pugachyovs kind encourage the worst instincts in the president. They instill in the authorities the idea that television is a means for mass brainwashing -- no less effective than the church was in the Middle Ages. And this can apparently be corroborated by reference to the personal experience of the president: Putin would never have become president if it were not for television. The problem is that television is a wonderful means for getting Putin elected to a second, third and 110th term, but its no use at all in the face of revolutions, strikes and economic collapse. The main victim of total zombification by a wholly state-controlled media is not the public. The public knows full well whether it is getting paid and whether it can buy food with its wages. The main victims are the authorities themselves who are losing their grip on reality and what is really going on in the country. The Moskovia channel, which belongs to Pugachyov, has already demonstrated what kind of editorial policy the Orthodox banker would like to pursue. The campaign launched by the station against Alexander Voloshin in no way differs -- apart from in scale -- from the campaign against Anatoly Chubais unleashed following the auction of Svyazinvest in 1997. In both cases, the television stations with exceptional impudence and lack of ceremony put pressure not so much on the public as on the authorities. So if Pugachyov wants to advise the president on how he should act, he and Father Tikhon are quite enough. There is no need for television channels as well. Yulia Latynina is a journalist with ORT.

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