Independence of Russian broadcasters Ekho Moskvy and Dozhd TV threatened by Putin's "steamroller."

Posted: 21 Feb 2012

Bloomberg, 14 Feb 2012, Scott Rose and Stepan Kravchenko: "Ekho Moskvy, a critical Russian radio station, accused the government of seeking to stifle its independence after the media’s outlet state-owned controlling shareholder moved to dissolve its board. OAO Gazprom Media, a division of Russia’s state-run gas company that controls 66 percent of the station’s voting shares, wants to replace the board after calling a meeting more than two months ahead of schedule for March 29, according to a statement published on the Moscow-based radio station’s website today. The development came a month after Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who’s facing a wave of protests in big cities as he seeks to return to the presidency on March 4 elections, accused the station of vilifying him 'from morning to night.' The station’s editor-in-chief, Alexei Venediktov, said that the new board would have the power to remove him. 'Now for the first time since 2001, when we were acquired by Gazprom Media, we have a situation where it’s technically possible to sack the editor of Ekho Moskvy by order of the government,' he said by phone today."

The Moscow Times, 19 Feb 2012, Stanislav Belkovsky: "Contrary to popular opinion, Putin actually supports Ekho Moskvy radio under Venediktov's editorial rule. Putin needs the popular station not only because commentators loyal to him — such as Leonid Radzikhovsky, Maxim Shevchenko, Alexander Prokhanov and others — have been given regular airtime on the station. In addition, the station offers a slew of commentators who are heavily critical of Putin, like Yevgenia Albats, Viktor Shenderovich, Vladimir Ryzhkov and others. Thus, the station is solid proof to the outside world that Russia respects freedom of speech. Putin doesn't fear Ekho Moskvy because his largest constituency — the passive, inert majority — does not listen to the station. In addition, since Putin diminishes the importance and power of the 'active minority' that listens to Ekho Moskvy, he will continue to allow the station's editorial policy to exist as it is."

RFE/RL, The Power Vertical blog, 16 Feb 2012, Brian Whitmore: "Apparently the Russian authorities were just getting started with their assault on the radio station Ekho Moskvy earlier this week. The Moscow Prosecutor's Office announced on February 16 that the independent online television station Dozhd TV was under investigation to determine who financed the channel's live broadcasts of massive anti-Kremlin demonstrations in the capital on December 10 and 24. ... Dozhd's 31-year editor-in-chief Mikhail Zygar said he was fully prepared to defend the station's financing, which he maintained was completely transparent. ... My initial take on this is that it could be the first real hint of Team Putin's changing approach to the opposition since Vladislav Surkov was replaced by Vyacheslav Volodin as the Kremlin's chief political strategist. ... Surkov ... understood the value of safety valves to channel dissent, which is why Ekho Moskvy was permitted to operate independently despite being owned by the state-controlled Gazprom. Volodin, on the other hand, is more of a steamroller. ... Putin is trying to get control of the media narrative by reining in independent voices -- much as he was early in his presidency when he oversaw the takeover of the once-independent NTV station. But the question remains whether this is possible in the age of YouTube, LiveJournal, and rising Internet penetration." -- All of which can be blocked. BBC Russian and RFE/RL each have about a million unique monthly internet visitors. Will this access remain unabated? Will Russians dust off their shortwave radios and turn them back on, if need be? Does the newer generation of Russians know what a shortwave radio looks like? See previous post about Dozhd TV.

Kyiv Post, 21 Feb 2012: "The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) has welcomed Russia's initiative to create public TV. ... 'Public broadcasting represents a traditional and necessary element in the media systems of European and North American countries and a necessary element of the functioning democracy," [OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatovic] said. Only three European countries, Belarus, Russia and Ukraine, do not have public TV, she recalled. 'I hear the arguments that there is no difference between state and public broadcasting, therefore there is no need to transform one into another. These arguments do not hold water. There are not differences but a yawning gulf between the two models of broadcasting,' Mijatovic said. 'Public broadcasting is structured to have legal and political safeguards against being held hostage to the top politicians.'" -- The OSCE's optimism about public broadcasting in Russia does not mesh with the news reported above.

Copyright 2006–2019 Kim Andrew Elliott.