Ad sales boost Rossiya profits

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LONDON -- Advertising earnings at Russian state television channel Rossiya jumped by a third last year to $486 million, helping it boost gross profits by $15 million to just over $71 million, channel general director Anton Zlatopolsky said Thursday.

The state-owned channel -- Russia's second-highest rated -- also earned $50 million from rights sales, Zlatopolsky said in an interview with business newspaper Vedomosti.

The interview was designed to answer critics that accused the state-funded channel of market abuse and had been planned well in advance, a spokeswoman for Rossiya confirmed.

Zlatopolsky, who also is first deputy general director at Russian state radio and television holding company VGTRK, told the newspaper: "We have nothing to hide and, on the contrary, VGTRK's finances compared with other media-market participants are a source of pride."

Advertising income at Rossiya increased to $486 million in 2006 from $364.5 million the year prior, while rights sales dipped slightly from $51 million to $50.6 million. Operating profits grew to $71.6 million from $56.5 million during the same period.

Rossiya sister channel Sport recorded its first-ever operating profit in 2006. Helped by the sale of broadcasting rights to sports fixtures via its membership of the European Broadcasting Union, the channel reported a profit of $3.5 million on revenue of $31.5 million

Profits from Rossiya and Sport would be ploughed back into VGTRK's other outlets -- including culture channel Kultura, regional stations and radio -- though "unprofitable" information programming was likely to come under increasing financial scrutiny going forward, Zlatopolsky said.

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