Propaganda and brainwashing of the population on Russian state television channels
The Russian Union of Journalists and Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations have published the results of their monitoring of news programs on leading Russian television channels
The main conclusions: President Putin, the government, and governing party are very widely covered on the national television channels. On the four state-owned channels the ruling regime make up 90% of the news.
Coverage of President Putin on three state-owned channels and on state-controlled NTV was unfailingly positive.
Radio Svoboda correspondent, Veronika Bode, asked the Director of the Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, Oleg Panfilov, to comment on the findings.
- “The results of the television monitoring are staggering. Firstly because the TV Channel “Rossiya”, Channel One, TVTs and NTV have already virtually turned into propaganda mouthpieces. In terms of the number of public figures, references to political parties and state bodies, these television channels devote more than 90% of their news broadcasting time specifically to the President, members of the government and one single party “United Russia”. All other parties received even less than one percent of broadcasting time.
For journalists this is of course a sensation since obviously they see the television channels, everybody sees how often the President appears, how often members of the government appear. Yet when we presented the material in which these peoples coverage is recorded to the second, i.e. the time of their appearances on the screen, that of course really was a sensation.
- What does the state of affairs which your monitoring revealing say about the processes taking place at present in Russia?
- I think that the traditions of Soviet propaganda have virtually been restored. The situation is very reminiscent of the anecdote about Soviet television: news broadcasts are all about Brezhnev and a few minutes about the weather. If one considers the data which we collected, these days the news on Russian TV channels, particularly the First and Second (“Rossiya”)channels, is practically along those lines.
- And what does this mean for Russian journalism? How would you assess its present condition?
- I agree with Igor Yakovenko, the General Secretary of the Union of Journalists who said that the people working on Channels One and Two have no right to call themselves journalists since they are churning out propaganda. Here it is absolutely impossible to talk about freedom of speech. I would in general suggesting using such a term warily when speaking about countries where there are at least some state-owned mass media outlets. If one considers that in Russian Channels One and Two are the most popular sources of information for the population, then talking about any freedom of speech is impossible.
- What awaits the Russian mass media in future? How will the process develop?
- I offered those who came to the presentation of our report a quote from a speech by President Putin on 18 May last year. He said that it was necessary to provide equal rights to all political parties on state television. He said that a year ago, but it is not being carried out. I fear that if this situation continues over the next couple of years, then the public will go to the elections – those for the State Duma, and the presidential elections – totally controlled by propaganda. Therefore to say that people have any choice in choosing deputies to the State Duma or their President will not be possible.
- What role, in your opinion, does journalism play at present in Russian life?
- It seems to me that if journalism has survived at all in Russian, then it has remained only in some number of newspapers and on the Internet. Unfortunately, one cannot really speak about state television since the channels more and more often show films, programs which are most similar to what they did on central television. If one just recalls the film made by Arkady Marmontov about the “spy stone” or about some kind of supposedly secret prison on a Ukrainian military base.
- And how would you assess the position of the authorities with regard to the Russian mass media? What is its task here?
- As for providing propaganda. They cannot have any other kind of attitude. I think that those officials who develop various means for amending legislation, the law “On the mass media”, who periodically talk about the need for censorship, are people who have never read the Constitution or current legislation. Im afraid that they see the mass media purely as a means of producing propaganda about what the regime is doing, and are not at all bothered about the fact that the population needs to know what really is happening in the country.
State channels “brainwash” the population, the President of the Foundation “The Academy of Russian Television”, Vladimir Pozner, stated in an interview to “Niezavisimaya gazeta” [“The Interpendent”] He went on to say: “State channels – the first, second and the fourth (TVTs) which is also state through the state “Gazprom” – essentially have one approach to information. In this they are governed in one way or another by instructions from the Presidents Administration, and they steer clear of a whole range of taboo subjects. In this way, to express it maybe very strongly, they brainwash the population since the latter has no idea what is actually happening in the country.
Vladimir Pozner believes that it is not possible in this way to create the civic society which is constantly being talked about. It is impossible to achieve this with a population that doesnt know what is going on in its own country.