16:12 GMT +318 September 2018
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    Russia's most liberal TV channel becomes entertainment -- expert

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    MOSCOW, July 12 (RIA Novosti) - The RTL Group, which is part of the German media group Bertelsmann AG and has recently bought a 30% stake in Russia's REN TV channel, will reconsider the broadcasting policy of its acquisition.

    Alexander Kostyuk, the director for television measurements with TNS Gallup Media, told a weekly business magazine, Profil, that Russia's last nationwide channel that dared to criticize the Kremlin in its news programs would become mostly entertainment.

    Energy monopoly RAO Unified Energy Systems of Russia sold the remaining 70% of the channel's shares to a large steel holding, Severstal Group, controlled by Alexei Mordashov.

    REN TV is an attractive object for takeover. "This is a national television network with an audience of 95 million," Kostyuk said. "The channel broadcasts in 800 Russian cities and populated areas and steadily maintains the sixth biggest audience share."

    Alexei Makarkin, the head of the Center for Political Technologies, said the Severstal Group could well be a mediator establishing control over the channel in the interests of a group inside the Presidential Administration.

    Alexei Mukhin, the general director of the Political Information Center, said Mordashov was one of the most loyal oligarchs for the authorities.

    Political experts said that RTL Group could act to legitimize the transaction in the public eye.

    "Image-wise, this scheme is perfect," Makarkin said. "There is a controlling shareholder close to the authorities, and a respectable and, importantly, totally apolitical foreign partner holding a minority stake."

    At the same time, Kostyuk said he was sure that RTL Group would run REN TV, which means that the channel's policy will be reconsidered. Although both parties to the transaction have announced that they intend to preserve REN TV's position as a leading news and entertainment channel, experts believe that now the focus will be on entertainment.

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