Georgia said on Monday a Paris-based satellite operator had cut transmission of a new Georgian TV channel to the Caucasus under pressure from Russia but the company denied Moscow was involved.
Russian-language First Caucasian, part of Georgia's public broadcaster, began broadcasting in January to a region including Russia's restless republics of Chechnya, Ingushetia and Dagestan.
The channel -- with a talk-show hosted by the widow of former Chechen pro-independent leader Dzhokhar Dudayev -- marked the latest broadside in the propaganda battle between Russia and Georgia since their five-day war in August 2008, when Russia crushed an assault by U.S. ally Georgia on rebel South Ossetia.
But on Monday, the channel said satellite operator Eutelsat had ceased transmission after a trial period despite what the Georgians said was a deal to continue on its W7 satellite.
First Caucasian said it came after Eutelsat signed a long-term lease contract on Jan. 15 for use of the W7 satellite by Moscow-based company Intersputnik to, among other things, boost the range of channels offered by the powerful media unit of Russian state-run energy giant Gazprom.
"We do not have official confirmation but in private talks French officials from Eutelsat say that there is pressure from Moscow," said First Caucasian head of news Katya Kotrikadze.
Eutelsat spokeswoman Vanessa O'Connor said the company did not have a contract with the Georgian public broadcaster to cover broadcasting beyond the trial period, and denied being pressured by Russia.
"We're a commercial company ... we're not a political animal," O'Connor told Reuters. She said Eutelsat did not have "technical availability" on the W7 satellite, but had offered alternatives.
"We believe we have the capacity that will provide them with the coverage they want," O'Connor said. The Georgian public broadcaster said alternative satellites were unsuitable.
An Intersputnik spokeswoman said she was unable to comment and a Gazprom spokesman could not immediately be reached.
Kotrikadze said the broadcaster would sue Eutelsat in the French courts and was "reviewing alternative options" for further broadcasting. The channel continues to broadcast within Georgia and on the Internet.
ReutersLast Mod: 01 Şubat 2010, 21:06