Problems in the development of Russia's Media

Jurriaan Bendien bendien at
Thu Jul 24 22:21:04 MDT 2003

(It's worth keeping an eye on the Moscow Times, the quality of journalism is

Moscow Times, Tuesday, Jul. 22, 2003. Page 12

Media Revolution Out of Steam

By Alexei Pankin

A "velvet revolution" swept through the Russian mass media in the summer of
2002, launched in part by Presidents George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin. One
year later, the "revolution" is all but forgotten.

The main event of last summer was a conference, held in Moscow at the end of
June, called "The Media Industry: Directions for Reform." The conference was
an outgrowth of the Russian-American Media Entrepreneurs Dialogue, or RAMED,
initiated by Bush and Putin in November 2001.

After six months of bilateral meetings, Russian and American participants in
RAMED met with Putin in May 2002. Among their conclusions was the need for a
conference devoted exclusively to the Russian media industry.

On the eve of the conference, Putin met with a group of delegates. The
conference attracted top executives and editors from all of the major
Moscow-based media organizations as well as representatives of the regional
mass media. No problem facing the media industry was off the table. A
resolution passed at the close of the conference called for a new
industry-wide model that would make Russian media companies more competitive
and attractive to investors. That model would promote professional
management, high editorial standards, economic independence and financial
transparency. The conference identified the excessive presence of the state
on the media market as a fundamental obstacle to growth. Press Minister
Mikhail Lesin became the darling of the broadsheets when he declared that in
time he would gladly hand over some of the functions of his ministry to the
media community.

On July 15, 2002, three dozen heads of major Moscow-based print media,
television and radio stations formed the Media Industrial Committee lobbying
group, headed by Konstantin Ernst, general director of the state-controlled
Channel One television station. The committee vowed to pay particular
attention to the problems facing regional and local media.

One year later, no one -- not the participants in RAMED and the conference,
not the Media Industrial Committee, not the press -- has bothered to assess
the progress made to date.

I was disappointed by this disregard for the Bush-Putin initiative. In
mid-June, Sreda magazine asked visitors to its web site to rate the impact
of the media industry conference on the subsequent development of the mass
media in Russia. Just under 15 percent of respondents said the conference
had made a positive impact, while 5.6 percent said that impact was negative.
An overwhelming 44.4 percent said the conference had made no impact
whatsoever, and 35.2 percent stated they expected Sreda to put forward more
meaningful questions for discussion.

In preparation for the first anniversary of the Media Industrial Committee,
media executives and editors in Moscow and the provinces were asked if the
committee reflected the interests of the media community. In Moscow, we
managed to find a few people with something positive to say about the
committee. In the regions, however, the responses varied from ignorance to

"I am not familiar with the activities and declarations of the Media
Industrial Committee," said Andrei Filinov, editor of the Vladimir State
Television and Radio Co. Boris Kirshin, head of one of Russia's few
independent newspapers, Chelyabinsky Rabochy, dismissed the committee as out
of touch with the trials and tribulations of the regional press. "At the
same time, I am convinced that the regional press needs a voice," Kirshin

Clearly Bush and Putin will have to roll up their sleeves and get back to
work if they want to make a real difference in the Russian media industry.

Alexei Pankin is the editor of Sreda, a magazine for media professionals.


More information about the Marxism mailing list