OBITUARY : Vladislav Listyev

Felix Corley
Saturday 22 October 2011 22:22

Vladislav Listyev, assassinated outside his flat in central Moscow on Wednesday, had just been appointed by Boris Yeltsin, the Russian President, executive director of the partially privatised Russian Public Television, due to replace Ostankino television (Channel One) in April. He was also well known throughout the former Soviet Union as a television host from his current affairs talk show and his appearances on the pioneering show Vzglyad ("Glance") of the late 1980s.

Listyev was born in 1956 and studied at Moscow State University, specialising in international journalism (he spoke French, Spanish and Hungarian). In 1982 after performing military service he joined All-Union Radio in Moscow, but it was in 1987, when he was plucked from obscurity to be one of the three presenters of the new programme Vzglyad on Central Television, that he came to national prominence. When the show started, the director Anatoly Lysenko apparently gave the inexperienced presenters just a few hours' coaching from a circus clown to prepare them for their new roles. The formula worked. In the exciting early glasnost years, Vzglyad brought the country to a halt at 10pm each Friday. It defiantly challenged the stodgy content of most Soviet television, presenting a fast-moving and lively show that combined reportage and discussion on previously taboo subjects, such as the slaughter in Afghanistan, Aids in the Soviet Union and - the ultimate blasphemy - whether Lenin's body should be removed from the mausoleum on Red Square. But they had recurring problems with Communist Party censorship. The programme was suspended for a period in 1990 for an attempt to discuss openly the resignation of Eduard Shevardnadze, the Soviet foreign minister.

In 1990 - as Soviet television began to open up to more frivolous programming - Listyev began and initially hosted the programme Magic Field, modelled on the American show Wheel of Fortune. It immediately topped the viewer ratings. The following year he initiated two other shows, Theme and Prime Time.

But it was his transfer into management that probably set off the events leading to his assassination. President Yeltsin issued a decree last November transforming Ostankino television, still seen over most of the former Soviet Union, into a partially privatised station, Russian Public Television, with Listyev in charge. The station had taken advertising since the late 1980s; and the vast potential revenues from this may have sparked a dispute with the Moscow Mafia.

Listyev had vast popular appeal as a television host. ``He came to our homes'', Yeltsin said in a statement, ``with a kind smile and an intelligent look in his eyes. He tried to bring us peace and happiness.'' But it was his flair for bringing new shows to Russian television - many based on Western models - that was his strongest point.

Vladislav Nikolayevich Listyev, journalist: born 1956; twice married (one son, one daughter), died Moscow 1 March 1995.

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