Moscow, 22 January 2002 (RFE/RL) -- The demise of TV-6 -- Russia's last remaining private nationwide television station -- was on the minds of many Muscovites today. The station was taken off the air at midnight last night after losing a court battle with minority shareholder LUKoil, which sued TV-6 for unprofitability. The case is strikingly similar to that of NTV, which was taken over by Gazprom in April, and leaves Russians with no alternatives to state television.
A Moscow radio station popular with young people this morning asked listeners to call in and share their opinions of the TV-6 drama. One, a young man named Volodya, said that only in Russia can there be a situation where you turn on the television only to find your regular station has been replaced with something completely different.
For Anatolii Chuchleb, a 40-year-old lawyer, the battle for TV-6 is an attempt by the government to silence oligarch Boris Berezovsky, the TV-6 owner who has been living in self-imposed exile abroad since falling afoul of the Kremlin. Although he says the blackout is not about press freedom, Chuchleb says there is no question that TV-6 was the only unbiased channel on Russian television.
"[In my opinion, TV-6] represented 'glasnost' in television. [State-owned] TV channels, like ORT or RTR, are biased. They cannot speak the way TV-6 [journalists] used to speak," Chuchleb says. "For [Russians], it's a big loss. But I believe that [TV-6 director] Yevgenii Kiselyov and his team will not give up the fight."
Lyubov Brevdo, a 65-year-old pensioner, likens the TV-6 shutdown to Soviet times, when free media did not exist in the country. Brevdo says that while she didn't like TV-6 herself, she believes that people should have the right to hear different opinions if they so choose.
"It's a pity [that the channel is off the air]. [TV-6] journalists are very talented," Brevdo says. "I can't say that I liked everything they showed on television, especially recently. But there are different opinions. I can switch the TV off if there's something I don't like. Nobody's forcing you, are they?"
According to a poll conducted by the Russian Center for Public Opinion, 39 percent of Russians surveyed said they considered the TV-6 shutdown a political issue. Fourteen percent said they thought it was purely an economic issue.