RUSSIA'S major television networks have begun cutting late-night programming in response to plans to reduce state funding.
Finance Ministry officials recently met with studio heads to tell them it was slicing their budgets by 50 percent, the daily Izvestia reported Tuesday.
Leaders of the state-owned Ostankino and Russian TV networks protested that such drastic cuts would mean they could afford to broadcast only half the day, the newspaper said.
Yevgeny Buchelnikov, an aide to acting Finance Minister Sergei Dubinin, told the Associated Press that the ministry was still preparing the television budget for the first quarter of 1994 and could not give figures.
Anatoly Lysenko, director of Russian Television, told Izvestia that the two state-owned networks cost taxpayers 3 trillion rubles a year - about $20 million at current exchange rates.
Mr. Lysenko suggested, however, that television is essential to Russian political reforms.
``It's outrageous that neither the government nor the president understands the role of television and radio in today's life,'' Lysenko said, urging President Boris Yeltsin to restore the funding by decree.
Lysenko did not say how many hours the networks have cut back, but some late-night movies already have been canceled. Izvestia said the funding problems could be solved if state TV channels were transferred to private hands.