Monday, December 9, 2013

Putin Overhauls Russia's International Broadcasting: Back to Propaganda 1.0?

Today, Russia-watchers woke up to the news that Putin has issued a decree ordering the dissolution of RIA Novosti and Voice of Russia, and establishing - instead - a new media giant to be called "Russia Today" [Rossiya Segodnya] (and this one is different and altogether separate from RT - the TV network - which initially started as "Russia Today" but later formally changed its name to "RT"). The overhaul was not only aimed at these two agencies, which have been there since the early Soviet years. It also affected several other publishing houses and news/wire organizations, and was supposedly aimed at "improving cost-effectiveness and efficiency ahead of budget reductions in 2014 for state-run information resources." This new Russia Today's task will be to improve Russia's image abroad (again?!).

Image from: RIA Novosti

This was not the only shocker, though. Perhaps in an even more controversial - yet unsurprising - move, Putin appointed Dmitry Kiselev [Kisilyov] to head this new agency. Kiselev, who is a prominent Russian reporter and TV anchor, and has - in the past several years - served as Deputy General of the state-owned All-Russia State Television and Radio Broadcasting Company [Rossiya], certainly has the prominence and the approval that have put him there. Apparently, Kiselev can also claim international broadcasting experience, having worked at the Norwegian and Polish Bureaus of the Foreign Broadcasting Center of USSR State Committee for Television and Radio Broadcasting [I know, it's a mouthful].

There are several major issues with this emerging picture: