#8 - JRL 7231
June 12, 2003
MEDIA IN THE EMBRACE OF THE STATE AND PRIVATE CAPITAL
The state of the Russian media
Author: Andrei Lipsky
[from WPS Monitoring Agency, www.wps.ru/e_index.html]
A STUDY BY THE GORBACHEV FOUNDATION REVEALS THE RUSSIAN MEDIA'S RELATIONSHIP WITH THE GOVERNMENT, PRIVATE BUSINESS, AND CIVIL SOCIETY IN THE PAST 18 YEARS. THE MEDIA SITUATION IS DANGEROUS: THEY ARE UNPROFESSIONAL, "CONFUSING" JOURNALISM WITH ADVERTISING, AND CONTROLLED BY OTHERS.
The Gorbachev Foundation hosted a presentation of results of a research project "The arrival of media in Russia as a tool of democracy: the policies of the state and private corporations."
It had been initiated by the University of Calgary Gorbachev Foundation and carried out by The International Press Club, the Moscow Lomonosov State University (MGU), the Russian Union of Journalists, and the Mount Allison University (Canada).
The analytical report, unique for the Russian scientific and publishing market, resting on applied expert research, and based on world experience, deals with relationships of Russian media with institutions of the state, business, and civil society in the period between 1985 and 2003.
We are talking to one of the project participants, Yasen Zasursky, dean of the journalist department, MGU.
Question: Speaking at the presentation, you said it was presently the most appropriate time to publish the results of the study. Why?
Yasen Zasursky: We are on the verge of an election. And the Duma has today passed amendments preventing media from the right that is provided for individual citizens - to take part in the election campaign. A legislative castration of media has taken place, that will interfere with conducting the election on a democratic basis.
Question: In every country, media have to deal with both the state and private business. What does this country's specificity consist in?
Yasen Zasursky: In the fusion of the state and private corporations. In developed democratic countries, the government authority and information-communication companies are to some extent opponents, while we see these companies accomplish the influence of the state. The most glaring example is Gazprom, controlled by the state, as the owner of NTV. Thus, the government performs influence not only via its own media, but also via the owners of large corporations. So the potential of media for the public sphere become extremely narrow - this is a very dangerous trend.
Question: The study marks another dangerous trend - decline in journalists' professionalism, as well as in the population's trust in media, even compared to the pre-perestroika stagnation years.
Yasen Zasursky: Decline in the level of professionalism is to some extent the consequence of increase in the number of journalists. In the Soviet time, they were around 90-100 thousand, whereas now around 900 thousand. Journalism involves not too well trained professionals, and this not only concerns journalists, but editors-in- chief as well. There is need to develop journalist training and a system of further training.
As for the trust, it is falling because our newspapers are too politicized and too actively fulfilling the will of their owners. Besides, many journalists "confuse" journalism and advertising, but readers recognize this quite well, so they cease to trust not only obviously tailored materials, but also all the rest. Political and commercial tailoring lead journalism away from public requirements, this annoys readers, and eventually they lose both interest and trust in media.
(Translated by P. Pikhnovsky)