Russian State-Run TV Company Drops Plan To Make Sport Channel Free
Russia’s state-run TV company VGTRK has canceled plans to make its pay-TV channel Sport available free-to-air. VGTRK is withdrawing its application for a free-to-air license for Sport in digital terrestrial multiplex 2, which will be launched as part of Russia’s switch to digital TV in '15, a company spokesperson said. The company did not provide an explanation for its move, but the announcement coincided with the finance ministry’s plans to substantially cut subsidies to state-run media in '14 through '16. Under the ministry’s plans, by '16, state subsidies to VGTRK are to decrease by one quarter from the present figure of 22.8B rubles ($707M) a year. Russian business daily Vedomosti quoted a source close to VGTRK as saying that with the decline of state subsidies, the company will not be able to afford a $30M a year license fee for free-to-air broadcasts. VGTRK originally launched Sport as a free-to-air channel back in '03. However, in '10, the broadcaster replaced it with Rossiya 2, a channel focused on youth audiences, which airs some sports programs alongside other content. In '11, Sport was re-launched on cable and satellite.
Vladimir Kozlov is a writer in Moscow.