Month: November 2016

World of
Russian Journalism

Lecture by Dr. Maria Anikina (MSU)


Written by Natalie Berner

Dr. Maria Anikina (

Dr. Maria Anikina gave us a lecture about the professional culture of Russian journalists. Anikina belongs to the Department of Sociology of Mass Communication which is chaired by Prof. Victor Kolomiets.

Redefining the research category journalist

During her speech Anikina described her project redefining the traditional research category journalist as it is confronted and mixed up with entities such as media activist or bloggers. She gave a brief overview how the subject of research journalist has been examined since the 1920’s. Further she emphasised the need of a scientific concept of post-journalism which also looks at the set of duties or the changing status of modern “information producers”.
Anikina is part of the World of Journalism Study by Prof. Hanitzsch (LMU Munich) and responsible for generating a Russian data base. The general approach of the study is to analyse different journalistic cultures on a societal, organizational and individual level. In Russia the researchers face a particular challenge as Anikina stated: since there is no official number of working journalists in Russia, no valid representative study was possible. However, according to estimates there should be between 150.000 and 250.000 Journalist working in Russia.
Anikina’s results show that the Russian journalist is often more interested in conveying a positive image and to set the political agenda rather than acting as watchdog, detached observer or to motivate people to participate.

Thus the journalist’s institutional role Russia is positioned rather close to those in Indonesia, China, Chile or Israel. In the dimension journalistic epistemology Russia is located between “making clear a better position” and “provide analysis”. This is quite the opposite of e.g. the US journalists who aim to “depict reality as it is”. Also in regard to the dimension ethical ideology Russia is far away from most of the western countries.

Generally the ethical standards are lower. Russia’s way seems to be more relativistic she said. Journalists would confirm that harm is always wrong (similar to Bulgaria, Pakistan and Chile) but they would not be in line with Austria, Switzerland, Germany, USA and Brazil, where journalists state that they “follow ethical principals” and “avoid questionable methods of reporting”.

Nevertheless 66 percent of polled Russian journalists are proud of calling themselves journalists and see themselves mostly as “neutral reporters”. Despite this, according to the study the social role of Russian journalists is the “dissemination of values” (85 per cent). As a factor in their carreer choice they see the profession as a good opportunity to develop and to collect symbolic capital in order to benefit from in other areas.

Only 25 per cent of polled Russian journalists say that they can trust the Russian people. On the other side the picture is not very different Anikina said:

Within society media, church and trade unions are not considered as very trustworthy, whereas the president and the military are kindly regarded and most trusted.

So according to Anikina, credibility is not only a problem in media but also in large parts of society.
How the era of “post-journalism” will develop and how research can keep up are questions Anikina and her Department will continue to look into.


TV-industry of Russia
Contemporary state and development prospects

The Russian broadcasting sector: structure, economic models and interference

Written by Katharina Dorn

Dr. Mikhail Makeenko, Associate Professor at the Faculty of Journalism of Lomonosov Moscow State University gave us a lecture on the Russian broadcasting system. TV is the most popular medium in Russia. 73% of the Russian population watch TV daily – 93% at least once a week. Television is the leading source of information. The TV industry of Russia consists of more than 20 federal broadcast networks, about 900 regional TV stations, approximately 350 cable and satellite TV channels and an unspecified number of local cable channels.

The three channels with nationwide outreach are Channel 1 (Первый канал), Rossija 1 (Россия 1) and NTV (НТВ) which own 39% of the market share and about 50% of the advertising market share of the broadcasting sector.

However, the huge size of the country (9 hour zones from Kalingrad to Magadan including about 200 nationalities) and its great cultural, economic and ethnic diversity also lead to the development of regional and local self-programming broadcast television. Thus, the Russian broadcasting system is largely decentralized with local TV stations working as affiliates (similar to the German ARD). This network system is very important with about two dozen networks which help disseminate information all over the country (in comparison: the number of networks is 3-4 times higher than in Germany or Italy).

Makeenko could isolate three typical economic models of modern self-programming broadcasters:

  • Budget needle (most common): broadcasters which are state owned or state subsidized with low or negative profitability
  • Unstable balance: private broadcasters with low net profit (<10%) and a significant share of local government investments
  • Profit generator: broadcasters with high net profit (10-30%), small dependence on local authorities and an orientation towards commercial revenue sources

Important TV owners are Gazprom-Media, CTC Media, NTV and the All-Russia State Television and Radio Broadcasting Company VGTRK. An analysis of the ownership structure of the Russian broadcasting sector shows that the national media outlets with the highest audience reach are controlled by the state (directly by subsidies or ownership of the state or indirectly by close relationships of media owners with politicians). Channel 1, for instance, is partly owned by Yuri Kovalchuk – chairmen of the Board of the Rossiya Bank and Putin’s personal friend. According to Makeenko, NTV is the only independent owner, since it does not show any direct or indirect ties to financial groups that control the other channels. It is considered one of the most objective and professional television networks in Russia.

Despite its financing by advertising or sponsorship, state subsidies play a crucial role for the continuing existence of the broadcasting system. Nearly half of the TV market is subsidized by state (about 16-17 billion rubles annually). ”Losses are compensated by state subsidies. The role of the economic regulator has been carried out by the state, which makes it a rather unprofitable system”, Makeenko states. Some private TV owners even report that their revenue isn’t high enough in order to receive subsidies. This state funding has a long tradition since it existed since the times of the Soviet Union.

Special types of broadcasting
Pay TV is very cheap in Russia in comparison to the USA. A basic package with 60 channels costs about 2€ per month, due to missing translations of contents and the fact that the broadcasts are produced for the main market (US, EU) in any case.

Regarding the online video sector there exist a lot of private sites, like Ivi, Megogo, TV Zavr and Tvigle which were surprisingly not replaced by the streaming giant Netflix (no “Netflix effect”).

Current developments
Russia is still in transition from analog to digital TV (the digital switch has been postponed to 2018).

State subsidies: He who pays the piper calls the tune?
After the presentation, we asked Dr. Makeenko if the high rate of state subsidies negatively influences the media freedom of broadcasters. Astonishingly the scholar negated this question due to several reasons:

  • Promotion of media freedom through subsidies: since the local advertising market is very weak, subsidies can also guarantee diversity, for example of local cultures. According to the scholar, “cultural diversity is more important than ideological diversity”.
  • Shift in donors, shift in influence: during the times of the Soviet Union, the state was the main donor of the broadcasting sector. Today, private founders (e.g. from other economic fields, like the gas company Gazprom) play a crucial role in financing. Consequently, the interests of several businessmen are strongly involved. Therefore, personal relationships seem bigger limits to criticism than state funding.
  • Liberal legal situation: there’s no law which states that criticism of the government is prohibited when a media outlet receives state funding. Furthermore, the Russian Law on Mass Media (1991) outlines the unacceptability of censorship.
  • Sanctity of power: media outlets are obedient to the state, which guarantees stability of the system. According to Makeenko, there’s no need to criticize it.

To my surprise, he also compared the Russian media system to Sweden, which is very liberal despite state subsidizing. Makeenko emphasized that Russian broadcasters are free to say what they want, they receive the funding in any case.
In my opinion, this fact is highly questionable. Even though there’s a strong significance of private men financing the broadcasting sector, it is apparent that there exist close ties between these donors and the government (as shown above) and therefore an indirect influence of the state on media freedom. Moreover, it is debatable if the liberal legal situation really reflects the reality. Perhaps there are unwritten rules that do limit criticism of the state. Furthermore, there seems to exist a clear discrepancy between old scholars and the younger population regarding their opinion of Russian media autonomy, as discussions with students at the university have shown to me. Astonishingly, the faculty of journalism is not located in the main complex of the Lomonosov University, but close to the Kremlin – the centre of power. Honi soit qui mal y pense?

I was somehow confused after the presentation, because it was hard to understand Makeenko’s point of view. “Russians are aliens”, he finally concludes – almost as if this could be taken as a justification for everything. Perhaps we aren’t able understand the Russian media system when comparing it with our personal experiences and our Western view. I, nevertheless assume, that this sentence was rather used to prevent external criticism and further discussion.

Public politics in Russia
Trends and prospects


Written by Julia Traunspurger

Dr. Ekaterina Sivyakova, assistant professor of the Faculty of Journalism of Lomonosov Moscow State University, gave us our first lecture in Moscow. She is working on public politics and mass communication and her presentation was about “Public politics in Russia: trends and prospects”


Press: the mirror of regime?
First Ekaterina Sivyakova presented some impact factors.

  • The type of political regime and the media systems organizational structure
  • The law practice and its transparency and importance
  • The Communication between media owners and journalist – whether it is cooperation or manipulation
  • and the role of Social media as a platform and source for ground communication and networking.

Following she gave us some short but informative background information on press in Russia from the 80s-2010s.


Press in the 1980s-2010s
In the 1980s press in Russia was an agent of change. Public trust and therefore the circulation rates of newspapers were quite high. The agenda was critics of communist past and other main topics summarized in the name Glasnost, all connected to a new political system and foresight.
In 1993 Russia adopted a new Constitution and became a “presidential” republic. Media business development and instrumental manipulation came back for two reasons: First, the 1996 presidential elections, where Boris Jelzin ran again. In the 2nd term he had strong competitors but won the 2nd wave because of the support of main media or rather: the support of main media owners. Second, in the end of the 1990s an “information war” started. Several business groups (including media owner) used media as an instrument for their interests.

In 2000 Russia, formerly a nation of readers, became a nation of TV viewers. By this press lost its position as driver of change, but became a  “chronicler”. Ekaterina Sivyakova pointed out that this transformation had also a strong impact on the media agenda. It turned to adapt the new medium. This means more infotainment, more emotional and visual and good looking politicians became present in media, instead of rational discussions on the country’s social problems. She called it “political theatre without discussion.” Furthermore, TV was far more state controlled than the press has been.
Press in 2010 was marked by a wave of dismissions of top journalists and editors (e.g. Kommersant, Esquire, Bol’shoy Gorod). State power focused on media which wrote about political problems, leading to a series of media conception changes. Those changes lead to an increase of positive issue rather than negative ones. For Ekaterina real problems are not properly covered nor analyzed in current Russian media (e.g. economical and social crisis, immigration crisis, HIV epidemic).


Media issues in 2010: polarized society
Russian society is ideological polarized. The most famous case is the discussion about LGTB rights. Another one is the “performance” of Pussy Riots which divided society in a pro and a contra group. Both cases are religious and political. Politically the Russian media system is divided into opposition vs. official “stakeholders”. During big events the Russian agenda, or as some might say propaganda, becomes more accurate (e.g. Sochi). In total there is a main difference between the internal (more aggressive) and external agenda and the official and independent media.


Crimea as a turning point – followed by Syrian war
The events around Crimea in 2014 were presented as a possible turning point. Whether people were happy or not about the annexation they could choose between media  which support their very own point of view on this topic. Official agenda was the supporting approach and alternative media, in contrary, had a critical approach. In other words: “Which frame do you want your information to consist of depends on how your feelings are about the issue.” Later the Syrian war replaced the Ukrainian agenda. The attention from Russian society went from internal social and political problems to more external and imperial problems.


After this historical and present background information on the press system Sivyakova named some future trends:

  • Investigative journalism comes back and reveals a new way: open data investigations
  • “Explanatory” texts answer the questions people ask (see
  • new forms of information (see picture above, which shows in three figures the price of Ruble for 1 $, for 1 € and for 1 barrel – the background picture and music can be chosen but it is said that this shows “everything essential in one page”
  • Russian politics as the sphere of myths and stereotypes
  • Lack of publicity: elections in the US as the most popular and discussed event in Russian politics
  • Russian civic agenda represented in independent and international media
  • Personalization of Russian politics: the policy of state leader Vladimir Putin
  • Russia vs. US and Europe in “Ukrainian question” (sanctions and anti-sanctions)

The lecture by Ekaterina Sivyakova was a good overview of current and past situation and how structures have changed.



Recommended Citation Form:
Julia Traunspurger: Public politics in Russia. In: Michael Meyen (ed.): Mapping Media Freedom. LMU Munich 2016. (access date).