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#11 - JRL 7007
From: "William Dunkerley" <wd@publishinghelp.com>
Subject: re 7003-Jack/Crippled Media
Date: Mon, 6 Jan 2003

JRL 7003 carried Andrew Jack's piece, "Fear and Kremlin hints turn reporters into Putin's poodles," that appeared in the Financial Times. Lamentably, he has greatly mischaracterized the state of Russias media.

For instance, he asserts that there is "a re-awakening of journalistic self-censorship," and blames it on the Putin administration. But, if Mr. Jack had checked the facts, he would have found a continuity of self-censorship since the beginning of Russias so-called independent press.

The cause of it, however, has been a long-standing, government-imposed legal framework that has made it practically impossible for media companies to operate profitably within the law. As a result, they have become financially beholden to oligarchs, government officials, and others, who fund the losses in exchange for the opportunity to color the news. That is why the media have been the self-censoring lapdogs of these overlords for years.

Curiously, Mr. Jack seems to be propagating the Berezovsky/Gusinsky mythology about Russia's media ills.

The good news -- a story that Mr. Jack failed to uncover -- is that the Putin administration has vowed to end this tragic situation. Already, it has changed two key laws that financially had hobbled the media. However, the parliament is fighting back, trying to keep in place tax incentives that promote the old status quo.

It remains to be seen if the Putin administration will go the full way toward making it possible for media enterprises to shed their oppressive sponsors and support themselves through legitimate advertising revenues. But, it has made a good start.

If that process is completed, then Russias journalists will have to change the business culture of their profession. They will have to shift from being paid PR agents of the old financial overlords, to being servants of the information needs of their audiences. Several organizations -- the International Center for Journalists in Washington, and the Media Research Center Sreda in Moscow, among them -- have backed a project called the Russian Media Fund (www.publishinghelp.com/RussianMediaFund) with an aim to facilitate that transition. The project has requested and received an invitation from the Russian government to work out a remedial plan, and is expecting financial backing from about a dozen Russian and Western multinational companies that account for the bulk of advertising expenditures in Russia.

William Dunkerley
Media Consultant
New Britain, CT

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