The Monday, April 2nd, conference lecture titled the “Structure of the Mass Media in Russia” is important to understanding the scope of media suppression in Russia. It seems common that our understanding of Russian media is that television is far more restricted than print media. The history of oligarch controlled TV – such as Berezovsky’s ownership of Russian News Channel 1 in the 90’s – has fostered that belief.
This lecture supported this conception. Indeed, 90% of people in modern Russia watch one of two major television stations. With centralization of the media, the state is able to manipulate these two major stations and their content. Especially telling was the bar graph displaying the amount of coverage given to Putin supported candidates and non-Putin supported candidates in recent elections. Of course, the coverage was highly skewed, with Putin backed candidates receiving far more publicity on the two main stations.
Furthermore, the panel members also provided information regarding positive and negative comments directed at Putin supported candidates vs. non-Putin supported candidates. Again, the skew was wide, with the major television stations praising Putin supported candidates in almost exclusively. Upon seeing this disparity, it is almost banal to declare that any semblance of fair elections is impossible to achieve under these circumstances. (I would also like to note that this skew in media coverage blatantly disobeys a Constitutional Court ruling for equal media coverage in 2004).
What I found most interesting from this panel was that newspapers statistics echo the television findings. This is important because it suggests that the often held belief that TV is more suppressed that newspaper is a misconception. According to the panel members, there is only one true national newspaper, and it is under government control. Only one newspaper capable of reaching the all of the people.
Moreover, even the independent newspapers in Russia do not give coverage to opposing political parties. Due to the prominence of the presidential administration in the Russian political system, newspapers are forced to focus on Putin in order to maintain viewer-ship, in the process often ignoring other important issues.
According to Andrei Zolotov, the only media structures with no link to the state are owned by international countries and institutions. Essentially, Zolotov is stating that there is no unbiased media source with ownership in Russia.
It seems the scope of media suppression is greater than yet imagined.