NTV: Timeline of events
LONDON, England (CNN) -- NTV has redefined Russia's broadcast landscape in the eight years since it was founded as a small, privately financed station in St. Petersburg.
The station earned critical acclaim from millions of viewers for its critical coverage of the 1994-96 Chechen war. But that same coverage also provoked the wrath of the Kremlin. The station's defenders contend it is now paying the price for its editorial independence.
The timeline below traces NTV's evolution.
October 10, 1993: NTV begins broadcasting on St. Petersburg's Channel 5 after a trio of high-profile media figures -- Igor Malashenko, Oleg Dobrodeyev and news correspondent Yevgeny Kiselyov -- defect from state television, based in the Ostankino TV tower. The new station subsequently moves to Channel 4, an education channel formerly controlled by the government.
1994-96: NTV's probing coverage of Russia's first military campaign in Chechnya, heavy on caustic commentaries and criticism of the Russian government, forges the station's early reputation for sober, straightforward reporting among Russian viewers more accustomed to Soviet-style propaganda.
June 1996: Russia's state-owned natural gas company, Gazprom, purchases a 30 percent stake in NTV. The move adds Russia's largest company to a list of financial backers that includes the country's biggest bank, MOST Bank, Natsionalny Kredit and Stolichny Bank.
NTV's favourable coverage of President Boris Yeltsin's re-election campaign draws accusations in the Russian press that the station is allowing outside interests to unduly influence its editorial policy. Those concerns intensify when NTV is given full rights to Channel 4 in the autumn of 1996, in the immediate wake of Yeltsin's landslide victory.
1997: NTV undergoes a radical revamping in its organisation when Vladimir Gusinsky, the general director of MOST Bank, targets the station as the flagship asset in his new Media MOST holding company. Media MOST's other assets include NTV+, the magazines Itogi and 7 Dnei, the newspaper Sevodnya, and the popular Ekho Moskvy radio station.
1999: NTV estimates its audience at around 102 million viewers. The station's broadcasts cover about 70 percent of Russia's territory and are received in other former Soviet republics including Belarus, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and the Baltic states.
Late 1999: NTV builds a 1,000-square-foot TV studio able to accommodate formats from news programming to talk shows with a guest audience of several hundred. The studio is equipped with an electronic voting system to take audience polls.
May 2000: Russian tax police, backed by officers from the general prosecutor's office and the Federal Security Service, storm the Moscow headquarters of NTV and its parent company, Media MOST, and search the premises for 12 hours. The raid is seen by critics as part of a state-run campaign to exert pressure on Vladimir Gusinsky. The police and security officers deny any political motive.
January 2001: Gazprom announces that it has taken a controlling stake of 46 percent in NTV. The move comes shortly after NTV founder Vladimir Gusinsky is arrested in Spain on fraud charges, accused of misrepresenting company assets in applying for $300 million loan guarantees from Gazprom in 1996. In addition to its 46 percent stake, Gazprom claims another 19 percent as security against another loan of more than $250 million, which is due in June.
January 2001: A Russian parliamentarian quotes President Vladimir Putin as saying it "wouldn't be a bad thing at all" if CNN founder Ted Turner were to purchase a stake in NTV.
April 3, 2001: Gazprom is accused of staging a boardroom coup when it uses a controversial shareholders meeting to pack NTV's board with loyalists and appoint U.S. financier Boris Jordan, known for his prominent role in a 1990s privatisation programme, to run the network. Gazprom's media chief, Alfred Kokh, is appointed chairman of the new NTV board, replacing the station's director-general, Yevgeny Kiselyov.
April 4, 2001: Vladimir Gusinsky is reported to have reached the outlines of a deal with CNN founder Ted Turner under which Gusinsky would sell most of his stock in NTV to the U.S. media mogul.
April 8, 2001: Rallying to the call of dissident NTV journalists, up to 10,000 people gather in St. Petersburg's Troitskaya Square to defend Russia's free press. A day later, 4,000 people, some brandishing posters that say "No TV without NTV!" and "We won't give NTV to Putin," gather in St. Petersburg to back the journalists against the Kremlin.
April 9, 2001: NTV's future remained unclear pending a reply from Gazprom, NTV's putative new owner, to an offer by CNN founder Ted Turner to buy a stake in the station. Turner had already struck a deal with Gusinsky to buy shares in the station.
New rally in support of NTV