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Moscow's version of TV newsmagazine

The Russians are invading! American commercial television, that is. Everybody's getting into the TV newsmagazine business this summer. First there was NBC with Roger Mudd acting as host to ``American Almanac,'' then CBS with its disco-beat ``West 57th.'' Now here comes ``Moscow Meridian'' (SPN/cable, Sunday, Aug. 25, 10:30-11:30 p.m.; repeated Wed. Aug. 28, 3:30-4:30 p.m.).

SPN (Satellite Program Network) has been involved in international programming for the past five years, airing series from all over the globe. It is a free service which now reaches 11 million households on 550 cable systems.

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``Moscow Meridian,'' with Vladimir Posner serving as host, Russia's well-known officially sanctioned journalist, is strictly a Russian propaganda film, highlighting the Russia its rulers want the world to see.

There are shots of Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in Leningrad meeting the people, a visit to the Moscow Kremlin with the history of this medieval fortress, some playful moments in Gorky Park, a short interview with Peter Ustinov, fleeting footage on US-USSR spacebridges, a bit of the Moiseyev dancers, and a tape of Autograph, the Russian rock group that performed on the recent ``Live Aid'' program. A serving of weak borsch, without even a potato.

This premi`ere special is supposed to be the first of a series.

It's all harmlessly amusing, totally predictable footage, interrupted occasionally by, would you believe, commercials for the Smithsonian and Audubon magazines. (According to an SPN program sales representative, ``The Russians just buy the time as a public service; we fill in the commercials.'')

``Public service,'' in this case, is a loose euphemism for propaganda. I wonder if we would be allowed to buy ``public service'' time on Soviet television.

``Moscow Meridian'' serves one major purpose for American television: It makes you appreciate all of the American TV newsmagazines which at least try to feature relevant subject matter.

If you were expecting ``Moscow Meridian'' to feature hard-hitting interviews with Jewish dissidents, Politburo figures, and Afghan freedom fighters, comrade, have you got the wrong channel.

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