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How the News is Reported in Russia
November 2010
by Andrei Nesterov

The two largest state-run television stations in Russia are First Channel and Russia Channel. Most Russians get their news from one of these two stations. SRAS's Andrei Nesterov compiled the following synopsis of how major events were covered by news reports on these two stations. This news review is part of SRAS's monthly "obzor" publications. For more reviews, see the newsletter for this corresponding month. If you would like to request that a story be covered here, inform our editor.

We are now providing weblinks to the related stories from the Russian broadcasters when available online! If no link is available, the material was covered in broadcasts, but not posted (or at least not found by us) online.

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November, Week 4

Medvedev Supports Opposition Parties

President Medvedev posted a video blog advocating reforms to Russia’s political system. Both national channels were positive in their reporting, although First Channel was quite selective in what it reported.

In the blog, the president said that “Russia’s political life has started showing signs of stagnation,” and such stagnation results in the degradation of both the opposition and ruling party. The opposition, having no chance to win in fair competition, becomes marginal, while the ruling party which has no chances to lose, "petrifies… as any organism does when it stops moving."

First TV channels reported that Medvedev stated that the political system should allow everyone's opinion to be heard and to be taken into account, including those of small social groups. The channel, however, did not mention what the president had said needed to be changed in the current system. First Channel concluded with an optimistic quote from the President that, although Russia’s democracy is not perfect, the country is on its way (to improving democracy) and moving forward.

Russia Channel was more detailed, mentioning specifically that the President had advocated making tampering with election results a criminal act, providing equal access to state media for all parties, and giving the right to the leading party in each region to nominate candidates to the post of governor for that region.

Russia Channel reported that Boris Gryzlov, the leader of ruling United Russia party, was "concerned" with the president’s statements to such an extent that he visited Medvedev to clarify the message. Gryzlov said afterwards in a Russia Channel interview that United Russia is reforming itself, and perceived the president’s message as a call to do so "more energetically."

Commenting on the blog, Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov called for the authorities to give the Communists an opportunity to speak on state television on regular basis. He said that if this were to happen, "more than half of Russia’s population would support the Communist Party in no time."


Also of Interest
First Channel

Medvedev on Improving Utilities
North and South Korea
Int'l Forum on Tiger Preservation
Putin on EU-Russia Visa-Free
Elevators in Russia
Moldovan Parliamentary Elections
Sport Commentator V. Maslachenko Dies
European Authorities Take Russian Children

Russia Channel

Medvedev on Improving Utilities
North and South Korea
Int'l Forum on Tiger Preservation
Putin on EU-Russia Visa-Free Russians
Medvedev Proposes Military Pay Raise
Moldovan Parliamentary Elections
Sport Commentator V. Maslachenko Dies
Russian Town Expels All Foreign Workers
Russia Celebrates Mother’s Day
Elections in Belarus
Rise in Minimum Price of Vodka


November, Week 3

Russia-NATO Meet in Lisbon

Russia's federal TV channels were roundly positive on Russia's meeting with NATO, with some differences in the focus of the reporting.

First Channel reported that the Russia-NATO Council meeting which took place in Lisbon on November 20 “the main international event of the week.”

First Channel quoted President Medvedev as saying that the leaders of Russia and NATO told each other at the meeting “everything they were willing to, but had been afraid to ask before.”  The Russian President also stated that Russia is ready for cooperation with NATO in the area of missile defense, but only on absolutely equal terms, as a partner.

First Channel criticized NATO’s position regarding the missile defense system, quoting Russia’s Ambassador to NATO Dmitry Rogozin as saying that the NATO members have no unilateral opinion and therefore have no specific proposals to offer Russia.

First Channel reminded viewers that the Russia-NATO Council was suspended in August 2008, after the military clash in Georgia. At the meeting, however, NATO adopted a 10-year plan for the alliance, which for the first time does not consider Russia a “potential enemy” for the first time.

Russia Channel stated that while relations between the NATO and Russia improved, no movement was made on NATO's relations with Ukraine and Georgia. No word was said about when they might join NATO.

Russia Channel quoted president Medvedev as saying that "we still have our differences on some issues. One of the biggest differences is in our respective positions regarding the events of 2008, the events of August 2008, and the geopolitical changes that resulted, and in particular, the emergence of two new independent countries – South Ossetia and Abkhazia. But we noted too that this issue should not become a stumbling block in our relations. We are ready to continue these discussions, aware that Russia remains committed to its position on this issue, and the NATO countries likewise remain committed to their respective positions.”

Meanwhile, Russia Channel summed up its report by saying that the period of cooling relations and complaints had been left behind in the Russia-NATO relationship.

Also of Interest
First Channel

Twelve Murdered in Kransnodar Region
Euro-Asian Ec. Comm. Meets in St. Pete
10 for Belarus Presidential Elections
Moldova to Hold Parliamentary Elections
Untested Drugs in Russian Drugstores

Russia Channel

Anniversary of Nuremberg Trials
Twelve Murdered in Kransnodar Region
Buddhist Monks Learn New Technologies
Putin Approves of Sverdlovsk Modernization
New Traffic Regulations in Force
Bulgaria, Romania Have “Gypsy Problem”
Medvedev Accuses Police of Distorting Stats
FSU Heads to Restore VDNKH?
Belarus Media Support Incumbent President
Bout Extradited to US


November, Week 2

Traitor Russian Spy in US

The Russian national TV channels reported on an investigative report published in the newspaper Kommersant naming the person who betrayed the Russian sleeper agent ring in the USA.

First Channel quoted the article as saying that the spies were betrayed in the summer of 2010 by a "Colonel Sherbakov" from the Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR: Sluzhba Vneshnei Razvedki). “Sherbakov,” the channel said, may be a pseudonym or code name. Allegedly, the traitor’s daughter and son had moved to the US shortly before Sherbakov gave the US the spies' identities. Sherbakov allegedly defected to the US, bringing with him dossiers for the Russian agents working in the US and, later, was personally involved in interrogating the arrested Russian spies.

According to First Channel, Sherbakov entered the room where Russian agent Vasenkov-Lazaro was interrogated, and told the latter, “Mikhail, surrender!” The 65-year-old Vasenkov was the most experienced of the sleeper agents arrested in the USA. He had worked as intelligence officer abroad since the 1960s, being promoted to the rank of general shortly before his arrest.

First Channel also reported that after the spies arrived in Russia, the President awarded them with the Order of Courage.

A former press service head of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service, Yuri Kobaladze, as saying that the article "demonstrated that the spies had not been unprofessional or unskilled," just "some villain betrayed them."

Both First and Russia channels quoted President Medvedev answering a Russian reporter’s question about the traitor. The President said that "he knew about that on the day when it (the betrayal) occurred" and "due lessons should be learned from this."


Also of Interest
First Channel

President Medvedev at G-20
Assaulted Reporter Still in Poor Condition
12 Murdered in Krasnodar Region
Putin on Health Care Modernization
Georgia "Invents" Russian Spy Network
EU Against Romania Joining Shengen
Russia Wins Volleyball Championship

Russia Channel

President Medvedev at G-20
Arrests in Krasnodar Murders
Assaulted Reporter Discussed
Russia Wins Volleyball Championship
Elections in Belarus
Moscow: Traffic and Kiosks
Bulgaria Agrees to Pipeline
Modernization: Medicine, Education
Preliminary Results of Census
Anniversary of White Army Evacuation


November, Week 1

Assault on Reporter Oleg Kashin

A reporter for the newspaper Kommersant, Oleg Kashin, was brutally beaten on November 6th. The coverage of the event, which is believed to be connected with Mr. Kashin's work, differed greatly between the two big national channels. 

First Channel was very brief in its report, stating that “the reporter was severely beaten by two unidentified men at night of Saturday (12:20 am of November 6), the doctors estimate his state as poor.” Furthermore, "the police initiated criminal case on attempted murder, which is under special control of Prosecutor General and Interior Minister.”

Russia Channel provided many more details, and listed several theories of why the attack occurred. The channel quoted the reporter's father as saying that the attackers “have the support of the mighty of this world” and wanted to show his son “who's the boss.”

Russian channel listed the reporter's injuries: broken arms, legs, fractured skull, broken jaw and fingers. Russia Channel hypothesized that the reporter had made many enemies: youth fascist organizations, businessmen whose interests were affected by the reporter’s articles, or by those who wanted to silence him in the dispute about the highway being built through Khimki forest.

According to Russia Channel, Oleg Kashin did not have sensational stories or articles exposing something extraordinary, he was “solid reporter” and while some of his stories were controversial, they were always competent and well-balanced. His professional interests concentrated on politics and youth organizations.

Also of Interest
First Channel

World War II Parade on Red Square
Tennis Player Awarded for "Service"
Crew Returns to Sky After Crash
Putin Drove Formula-1 Racing Car
Scandal St. Bogolyubovsky Orphanage
Int'l Charity Film Festival in Moscow

Russia Channel

World War II Parade on Red Square
Elena Dementieva to Retire from Tennis
Vladimir Putin Drove Formula-1 Racing Car
Communists Mark 1917 Revolution
Germans Protest Nuclear Waste
Homeless in New Jersey


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