Albanian media magnate dies in car crash

TIRANA Fri May 23, 2008 9:49pm IST

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TIRANA (Reuters) - Albanian media entrepreneur Dritan Hoxha, whose channels became an irritant to the government with their independent news reports and investigations, died in Friday in a car crash in Tirana.

Initially a coffee trader, the 39-year-old invested more than anyone else in radio and later television, drawing huge audiences with a modern and independent approach to news, entertainment and music shows and corruption-busting programmes.

Two years ago, Hoxha launched a pay-television platform that became a commercial success with sales to Albanians at home and abroad. It has six high definition channels, more than any similar platform in Europe.

"Dritan Hoxha will be remembered as the founder of a media empire that changed the tastes of Albanians and made a great contribution to the opening of Albanian society," Hoxha's Top Media group said in a statement.

Its independent news reports and investigative programmes using hidden cameras turned his Top Channel station into a fixture for Albanians eager to hear hard facts rather than government propaganda.

Last year, the ruling Democratic Party government of Prime Minister Sali Berisha slapped a 13 million euro fine on Hoxha's group, but they later reached a compromise.

Hoxha's Top Channel won a national licence, but was forced to gradually move out of its leased offices in the landmark pyramid-shaped structure initially built as a museum for Albania's late dictator Enver Hoxha, no relation.

Hoxha's Top Media Group, which hired around 800 people, also launched a television to mobile phone service in Albania.

Top Channel and a 24-hour news-only programme stopped working as staff were too shocked at the news of his death.

He was driving his Ferrari Fiorano 2007 when the car veered off the street into the pavement and hit a tree on the bank of Tirana's Lana stream. He died a few minutes later.

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