MOSCOW, July 5 (RIA Novosti) - Recent ownership changes at Ren-TV and the Izvestia, Kommersant and Moskovskiye Novosti newspapers may be connected with preparations for the parliamentary and presidential elections of 2007 and 2008, according to independent Duma deputy Gennady Seleznev, former Duma speaker and former editor-in-chief of national dailies Pravda and Komsomolskaya Pravda. Seleznev predicts that some other national publications will change hands in the near future.
"All mass media outlets that can shape information policy" will pass into state ownership or move close to the state as the 2007-2008 elections approach, Seleznev told the Noviye Izvestia daily. This is especially likely for high-circulation papers such as Argumenty i Fakty and Trud that "would work in the same area as the state-owned mass media." Seleznev sees another sign of the construction of an "information vertical" as the virtual elimination of local TV broadcasts, when regional branches of the All-Russian state broadcasting company have lost several hours of airtime, and "the whole country watches the same television."
Alexei Simonov, president of the Russian Fund for Protection of Glasnost, agrees. "The issue of the elections worries the authorities so much that even though they hold all the trump cards they still want to remove from the deck a few big cards that under certain circumstances could turn into trumps," he says.
Even the TVC channel, owned by the Moscow city government, could change hands ahead of the elections. Alexei Samokhvalov, director of the National TV and Radio Research Center, says that with TVC the channel could first be issued a warning and then deprived of its license, which will be passed to another owner.