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Russia/ 4.2 Specific policy issues and recent debates  

4.2.6 Media pluralism and content diversity

According to data published by the Federal Agency for Print and Mass Communications, on 1 January 2006, there were 66 931 registered media companies, of which 14 290 specialised in e-media and 1 816 acted in the "RuNet" (Russian language section of the Internet), the latter becoming the main information source for the younger generation. At the beginning of 2010, there were 20 free-to-air TV channels including the specialised "Kultura" channel and 230 other channels, of which 50 (including music and ethnic ones) were free of charge. State broadcasting remains the backbone of the e-media system.

The State Russian Television and Radio Broadcasting Company (VGTRK), which has more than 90 regional branches and covers almost all of Russia, belongs to the state; the share of the state agencies in the "First Channel" public company equals 51%. There are broadcasting companies belonging to regional authorities, which were recently proposed for desetatisation by the Russian President. Music radio stations make up the bulk of commercial radio, while information stations often belong to the huge broadcasting companies.

Provisions for media pluralism are among the direction of state cultural policy. Notwithstanding the general decrease of direct media funding, the federal budget provides for:

  • production of cultural programmes that e.g. foster cultural diversity and tolerance, represent ethnic cultures, etc.;
  • publishing of cultural, educational, scientific, reference and fictional works via grants; supporting book culture and reading;
  • particular broadcasting channels with cultural content (e.g. TV and radio channels "Kultura" or "Orpheus" classical music radio station) or targeted audiences (e.g. the "Bibigon" TV channel for children); and
  • digitalisation and preservation of national audiovisual archives as a part of cultural heritage.

One of the main priorities outlined in the Broadcasting Development Concept in Russia for 2006-2015 is to increase the number of national programmes reaching the mass population. It also emphasises:

  • the need for additional resources to translate programmes targeted for ethnic, religious, and language minorities; and
  • the importance of establishing national public television and non-governmental channels for particular socio-cultural groups (e.g. for children).

Broadcasting uses mainly the Russian language, and experts point to the decrease of local content in regional broadcasting programmes, which are being replaced by national productions. This trend is also supported by the economic situation, which is particularly difficult for smaller or medium players. Altogether, domestic contents make up about 80% of the programmes translated and 74% of broadcasting volume.

Current policy issues such as freedom of speech and censorship, anti-trust measures, the high fees for delivering periodicals by post and VAT rates, language and content diversity of the regional press are discussed within the Commission for Communications, Information Policies, and Freedom of Speech in Mass Media of the Public Chamber. Although there are broad discussions on the need for introducing censorship of violence and malice, which became common on TV, a VCIOM sociological survey of 2008 revealed 58 % of those who support this type of control and whose number is decreasing (relatively 76% in 2004). The Public Chamber also proposed to develop a state grant system and professional competitions for media productions with ethnic cultural content and in the languages of the peoples of Russia.

Chapter published: 11-04-2013

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