'Hustler Gold' knocked off Russian air


LONDON -- Russian cable and satellite channels are bracing themselves for a crackdown on adult pornography shows after it emerged Thursday that a state cultural watchdog body has ordered hardcore programming pulled from leading satellite broadcaster NTV Plus.

NTV Plus -- which broadcasts to some 550,000 subscribers across Russia -- stopped broadcasts of "Hustler Gold" as part of its adults-only subscriber packages after Rossvyaz'okhrankultura said the sex-themed program violated laws banning pornography from the airwaves.

In a letter to NTV Plus, the watchdog body said its experts had concluded that "Hustler Gold" constituted hard-core pornography and should not be screened. Another Hustler channel, "Blue Hustler," which was defined as soft-core, did not breach rules and could be screened, the letter said.

NTV Plus responded by replacing "Hustler Gold" broadcasts on its adult-only subscriber packages with "Blue Hustler" pending an appeal against a decision that NTV Plus general director Dmitri Samokhin dubbed "provisional."

"We have sent Rossvyaz'okhrankultura a letter noting our disagreement with the decision and are putting the question (about what constitutes hard-core pornography) to experts," Samokhin told Russian business daily Kommersant.

Russian broadcast rules forbid the airing of adult content before 11 p.m. on terrestrial or free-to-view channels but does not restrict paid-for subscriber services, making adult premium content channels an important source of income for satellite and cable operators, where an estimated 70% of bonus subscriber package sales include sexual content.

Aleksandr Malis, general director of Corbina Telekom, which like many pay TV channels includes "Hustler Gold" in its adult package, said cable, satellite and IP TV providers were watching developments carefully.

"It is evident that this will affect everyone who has 'Hustler' -- and everyone has 'Hustler,' " Malis said.