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Russian Public Television living through times of financial problems

July 24, 2013, 15:46 UTC+3 Alexandrova Lyudmila

MOSCOW, July 24 (Itar-Tass) - The Russian Public Television (OTR), which has started broadcasting back in May 2013, is already living through the times of financial problems. The budget allocations are not enough, private donations are something less than moderate. In the view of experts, this television may have a regretful fate, because actually neither the society nor the state authorities are concerned highly over its future.

The monetary funds in the OTR budget are over, Director General of the Russian Public Television Anatoly Lysenko told Itar-Tass on Tuesday.

“By now our budget has fully exhausted. I do not know how we will live in the future,” he said. Meanwhile, Lysenko noted, “The legend that the TV channel can live on donations did not justify itself.” “We understood this from the very beginning,” he stated.

Lysenko stated that the TV channel will have enough funds for broadcasting until September, but he added that it is difficult to make an accurate forecast. “We have sent the letters to different agencies with the requests for financial aid and will keep on doing this,” the OTR general director added.

The state allocations were spent for the creation of a TV centre, which is not finalized yet.

It was reported on Tuesday that head of the Federal Agency for Press and Mass Communications Mikhail Seslavinsky has made a personal donation of 100,000 roubles to the Russian Public Television. The agency reported that the amount of donations, which the Public TV Channel has raised since last April reached only 50,600 roubles.

Seslavinsky noted that he has made an attempt to set a personal example in hope for a larger activity of Russian citizens, who are interested in the development of the public television.

The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) is considered to be a classical funding model of public television, as the corporation does not receive any monetary funds from the British state authorities and lives mainly on the subscription fees of TV viewers (75-80% of revenues for the last few years).

Anatoly Lysenko noted earlier that OTR cannot follow the suit of BBC, because people hold a TV license in Great Britain, in Russia “people do not pay even their utility bills, and it will be needed to set up a federal service to raise this payment with the OMON riot police and the support of helicopters to make them pay for TV.”

The establishment of the Russian Public Television was Dmitry Medvedev’s idea voiced at the beginning of 2012, when the latter occupied the presidential post. The OTR broadcasting was launched on May 19, 2013 in the networks of all operators of cable, satellite, IP-TV and on the website otr-online.ru in the test mode.

The Russian state, the powers of which belong to the Russian government, is a founder of the Public TV Channel. According to the idea of the OTR directorate, the TV channel should promote the enlightenment and the development of the civil society.

The Russian Public Television is mainly funded from the state budget. It was planned at first that the state authorities would help the TV channel with the launching of its broadcasting and would fund it only at the initial stage. The Russian state authorities allocated 1.5 billion roubles for the start of the Russian Public TV. In the future the TV channel was expected to live on the interest rates from the endowment fund formed of donations. Then the government decided to earmark 1.5 billion roubles annually within next three years to this TV channel.

The sum of 1.5 billion roubles is just 65-70% of needed monetary funds, Anatoly Lysenko stated. To the question what the Public TV Channel will do, when the funds are out, he offered three variants. “The first variant is that I will be fired, the second variant is that the channel will be shut down, the third variant is to find the money. I hope for the last variant,” Lysenko contemplated at the end of May.

Many public figures and journalists supported the idea of creating an unbiased TV channel, which would exist on the donations of people and would put forward a point of view, which will give an alternative to the position of the federal TV channels. However, the Russian Public TV, the directorate of which the Russian president appoints, was exposed to criticism for an insufficient independence from the state authorities.

“The Russian Public Television has already been set up, and, unfortunately, in the format, which was interesting to quite few people,” the Argumenty i Fakty weekly quoted a member of the Russian Public Chamber and a well-known TV anchorman, Nikolai Svanidze, as saying.

In the view of Svanidze, the television failed to become “either public or independent,” because it is funded from the budget and its top management is appointed by the Russian president. In this format, it is needed and interesting for few people, the TV anchorman believes.

The only straw for salvation of the Russian Public TV Channel is if the state authorities take the task to fund it fully, Svanidze believes. Otherwise, “it may merely wither out,” he said.

The only way to overcome an ongoing financial crisis for this TV channel is to make injections from the state budget, TV critic Irina Petrovskaya agreed with Svanidze’s opinion. She recalled to the Kommersant daily that the budget funding primarily was expected to make in the creation of the Russian Public TV, and in this case the Russian state bears responsibility for whether the TV channel will be broadcasting or not.

“The Russian Public Television was needed for the Russian state just for the fact it exists and it was clear from the very beginning,” the TV critic claims.

Meanwhile, 77% of respondents supported the idea of founding the Russian Public Television in a sociological survey, which the All-Russia Public Opinion Research Centre (WCIOM) conducted in January 2012.