New RFE/RL Russian director says news focus "was a mistake," and that the station will move to "analytical materials."

Posted: 13 Dec 2012   Print   Send a link
Report from Sergei in Moscow: "1. RIA Novosti reported that Radio Liberty's new Russian director Masha Gessen wants to move away from news to 'analytical materials.' Ms.Gessen is quoted by RIA as saying 'I believe it was a mistake for RL to focus its efforts on the news programming in recent years.'

"RL has no news programing in the local mornings anymore except for the short bulletins on the hour. This is probably due to the fact that morning news shows were prepared mostly in Moscow. The first original one-hour news broadcast goes on the air at local noon on weekdays, then at 4 pm and 8 pm. (The last one seems to be more of a news discussion show.) RL seems to have stopped any call-in guest programs that were so prominent in recent years. I heard at least one guy from VoA Russian participating in RL's program about the US developments.

"RL gave up on its SvobodaNews.ru site and returned to its old address Svoboda.org. For now the new site looks less appealing than before - it's very limited in its offerings and provides no news updates. I'm sure it lost most of its audience in recent months.

"The good news is that RL's short-wave broadcasts targeting European Russia are heard loud and clear in Moscow. I guess it's much easier to find a clear frequency these days. And I don't think the SW service will last for too long.

"2. Curiously, VoA, WRN and FEBC continue broadcasting on AM dial in Moscow. Which leads me to conclude that RL's quitting AM in Moscow had little to do with Russian authorities. RL just needed a good excuse to abandon it. (BBC and DW quit their AM channels in Moscow earlier with a more honest explanation - the lack of AM audience in the city.) VoA still carries its clandestine 30-min. Russian broadcast on weekdays at 5 pm Moscow time.

"3. Starting December 11, BBCRussian.com, BBCMundo.com and BBCArabic.com began carrying ads that are displayed for non-UK visitors. (See BBC Russian blog, 10 Dec 2012, Артем Лисс.) This is presented as an experiment - in addition to BBC.com that has displayed ads for quite a while now. BBC Russian has a Siemens ad on top of its main page that is identical to the one carried by the state-run RIA.ru. I guess not so good for branding."

Svoboda.org, undated, Andrew Sharogo, Google translated: "For Radio Liberty has changed, we are now - not only and not so much radio as website with diverse content. The final issue of 'Time of Freedom' will inevitably alter the shape of the material, but the main thing I try to maintain: accurate selection of important topics and the right priorities, depth of expertise, impartiality lead, comparison of different points of view, speed and timeliness. The essence of journalism is not changed. The results of each weekday summing exactly twenty-five zero - on shortwave and the internet. The debate can continue in Facebook and Twitter. Read, listen, write!"

Svobodanew.com, 8 Dec 2012, Mikhail Sokolov and Marina Timasheff responding to statements about the changes at Radio Svoboda by its new director Masha Gessen, as Google translated: "'There remained only the medium wave in Moscow, where the audience, according to the audit, was 104,000 people.' And what's wrong with that? Note that the audience of Radio Liberty to NE was greater than that of FM-radio 'Komsomolskaya Pravda.'"

Svobodanew.com, 1 Dec 2012, Igor V. Sutyagin, translated to English by BBG Watch: "I look with sadness not at our generation, but at the new Radio Liberty website. Sadness from a professional point-of-view. It is not that the new staff are working poorly. These judgments are reserved for professionals in the field. I am a specialist in a different field, but for nearly two years the 'Radio Liberty' button was second in my browser’s most-visited list – after my work e-mail, but ahead of my search engine. I don’t have a lot of free time. I read much faster than the overwhelming majority of people speak, so when I needed news about Russia and, more importantly, when I needed a competent analysis of the news, I would not turn on the radio, but would instead open the Radio Liberty website. This happened regularly, about twice a day. ... The former layout of the RL website allowed me to 1) quickly and reliably find fresh news, 2) quickly skim the headlines with my eyes, without wasting time listening to entire programs which may or may not contain useful information, 3) quickly find relevant commentary (which, due to RL web guidelines, were very terse and to the point – a quality that distinguished RL from other websites), 4) skim the titles of fresh blog posts and access the ones most relevant to me by subject or authorship. Additionally, the 'Liberty Bloggers' section archived posts by authors of interest to me, and I could easily access them from a list of names. (Now, I’m forced to sift through an endless stream of posts without knowing whether there will be anything of interest to me there). Radio Liberty was second-most popular on my browser because its website structure was the most convenient for professional work with a news website – much more convenient than the layout of Grani, Ekho Moskvy, Ezhednevnyi zhurnal, TheNewTimes, Kommersant and Novaya gazeta. All these factors combined made Radio Liberty my go-to source of information – and all of this destroyed when the website was remodeled."

BBG Watch, 13 Dec 2012, has a link to a list of media coverage of the Radio Svoboda transitions and resulting protest.

BBG Watch, 10 Dec 2012: "Kristina Gorelik (Кристина Горелик), fired last September by American taxpayer-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) along with dozens of her colleagues, has received ... the Moscow Helsinki Group prize for 'journalistic activity aimed at promoting human rights values.'" Committee for US International Broadcasting, 11 Dec 2012, congratulates Ms. Gorelik.

International Herald Tribune, 10 Dec 2012, Masha Gessen, director of Radio Svoboda. "Should the prime minister have referred to Russian detectives as 'goats'? It can be a derogatory term in Russian, just like that word in English that can mean either donkey or derriere. The insult was uttered during an informal chat following Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev’s semi-regular, roughly annual formal interview given to representatives of several television channels at once. ... 'Everything is going to be fine, don’t worry,' [said] Medvedev. 'They are goats for coming at 8 in the morning. It’s just a bad habit.' As it happened, this bit of post-interview interviewing was caught on tape — and promptly broadcast by Russia Today, an English-language television channel designed, among other things, to convince foreign audiences that Russia is a democratic country. ... Russia Today meant to show the recording to foreigners only: the conflict was not meant for domestic consumption."

Arizona Jewish Post, 10 Dec 2012, Cheryl Halpern (former member of the Broadcasting Board of Governors): "In 1991, as the USSR began its dissolution, I flew, as a member of the Radio Liberty board, to Moscow and met with Elana Bonner, the widow of noted refusenik Andrei Sakharov and an outspoken human rights activist. She told me how important it was for her and others like her to know that Americans were marching for the dignity and freedom of the Russian dissidents. The news that she and others received on the short wave Radio Liberty broadcasts regarding the protest movement [to draw attention to the plight of Soviet Jews] in America gave her and the other Russian activists the much-needed support to carry on."