April 1, 2003
Global News A la Russe?
Although it may seem quite logical that technological progress makes cheaper information campaigns dedicated to large-scale catastrophes and wars, such campaigns are still very expensive. Human factor is one of the reasons explaining why it is so. There is hardly a man who will agree to risk his life in the thick of a war, that means that war reporters must be paid well. And this is not the most important thing. Life of a reporter sent to work under war conditions must be insured, and insurance cost is also very high. Different sources report it makes up 12.5 thousand euro per day. American large TV channels can afford such big sums; at that we should remember that the US government took thorough measures to get ready for the war. But as for European channels, they cannot assume such considerable financial commitments, especially under conditions when it's not clear for how long the commitments must be assumed. Only Americans expected the war in Iraq would be quick. Many of European journalists who were to work in Iraq failed to go there because of the expensive life insurance cost.
What we have as a result is that the whole of the world have to listen to reports from the war as it's seen by Americans, in the light of the flag-waving TV channel Fox News. Another TV channel, CNN, is slightly better than the "Bush's pocket television". Some time ago the TV channel was called Clinton's News Network, and today the mouthpiece of the US democrats is in disfavor for quite obvious reasons. Nevertheless, CNN also doesn't allow undisguised criticism of the US military operations in Iraq.
And while any TV channel can supply any offscreen comments to reports from the Iraqi war, pictures from the war broadcast by almost all channels are still America-made. Unfortunately, the situation is the same in newspapers: US's leading news agency Associated Press is the key source of information and pictures to majority of American and international printed mass media.
But to all appearances, the situation when one state is dominating the world information milieu is gradually changing. The other day authorities of France, the country strongly protesting against the war in Iraq, declared they would set up an international TV channel in the French language. France President Jacques Chirac is the initiator of opening of such a channel. This is supposed to be a sort of "CNN in French". The alternative to America's CNN is likely to start operating in 2004 already.
In the beginning, the international French TV channel will broadcast in the Arab states, African and European countries, but next the broadcasting will be expanded to the Far East, Latin and, what is especially important, North Americas.
RTR-Planet TV channel will vary the American information sphere; it's now available in 49 states of America. This is certainly the best Russian TV channel designed for the international audience. It combines programs of the Russian state-run channels Rossiya (Russia) and Kultura (Culture), and Euronews. We should mention here that the Russian state-run television has considerably expanded geographically, this is also due to the Russian version of Euronews. Broadcasting of Euronews in the Russian language started on September 17, 2001 on the territory of Europe, Canada, Middle East, Baltic countries, CIS and Russia together with versions of the program in other languages. The share of VGTRK, All-Russian State TV and Radio Broadcasting Company in the international news channel makes up 16%, the Russian media holding actively participates in management of the European news channel. The Russian-language version of Euronews is watched by 27 millions of Russian families; recently broadcasting of this version on the central cable and satellite networks was started in France. It's for the first time that Russian-language news are broadcast in France. This certainly demonstrates Russia's progress in the information sphere; what is more, under the present-day conditions Russia should follow France's example and consider creation of its own 24-hour news channel meant for Russian and foreign audience. Creation of such an information channel will improve Russia's image abroad and strengthen its authority and influence in the world. VGTRK could become the basis for creation of this channel. This state company holds all necessary resources, material, technical and personnel; its wide correspondent network in Russia and abroad, political and diplomatic relations could make work of such a channel very efficient.