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Russia Is to Speak to the World

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Russia Is to Speak to the World
The recent announcement of the preparation in Russia for launching its own worldwide TV channel roused a marked interest both among Russian public and abroad. The new TV news channel is supposed to broadcast in English round the clock and will be called "Russia Today". Through satellites it would cover Russia, Europe, USA, CIS countries and a number of Asian states.

Judging by the press release published in this connection, the new satellite channel would offer its viewers running commentaries on the most important world events. It is also intended to reflect Moscow's position on key issues of foreign relations and inform foreign audiences about various aspects of life inside Russia itself.

The editorial policy of the new channel would be supervised by a Public Council composed of well-known Russian and foreign public figures, journalists, cultural workers, scientists and businessmen. The founder of the channel is the RIA "Novosti" news agency.

Margarita Simonian, special correspondent of TV channel "Russia" and one of the rising stars of Russian TV, has been appointed Editor-in-Chief of "Russia Today". The high significance given to this project is evidenced by the fact that it will be watched over, from the side of the President's administration, by President's press-secretary Alexei Gromov and President's advisor Mikhail Lessin, and from the VGTRK (All-Russian State TV and Radio Company) side by deputy director of the Information Programs Directorate of the "Russia" TV Channel, Dmitri Mednikov, who is in charge of international and regional news.

It is proposed to invite foreign narrators and journalists to work with the channel, their number coming up to about 80 percent of the channel's staff. According to some news agencies, ads announcing the recruitment of specialists for work at the "Russia Today" channel have already been placed in some Western English-language publications, for instance in the well-known British daily "The Guardian". As has been explained, the reason for this is, among others, that in Russia "there are no specialists in distribution of this kind of product in international networks ".

Admittedly, this is a very interesting and, which is most important, needed - for Russian interests – initiative. Considering Russia's present-day international position and the steadily growing negative information pressure from abroad she has been subjected to in recent years, the necessity of implementing such a project has been felt already for a long time. This has been evidenced in particular by the situation around the latest Russian presidential and parliamentary elections, the administrative reforms going on in Russia, the Yukos case, the 60th anniversary of the victory in the second world war, the triumphant march of the "flower revolutions" through CIS countries, etc. Moreover, the evident lagging of state efforts in this field gives rise to a feeling of certain puzzlement.

It is an open secret that after 1991 very little has been left from one of the world's most powerful services of information broadcasting to foreign countries that existed in the time of the USSR. Nowadays Russia occupies the 97th place in the world in terms of financing its foreign policy propaganda. And this happens at a time when the USA, other Western countries, China spend billions of dollars on information support of their foreign policy interests.

The attempts to build a system of creating a positive image of Russia abroad, which have been made up till now through the state facilities, produced poor, if any, results. Yet high demand for Russia broadcasting in foreign languages is beyond any doubt. Widespread dissatisfaction with the nearly total domination of American TV channels in the world information space has become commonplace today both in Europe and "third world" countries. The proof of it is the success of the "Al-Jazeera" TV channel that seems to be effectively competing with the American CNN channel.

Naturally, launching "a Russian CNN" would require investing a great deal of financial, organizational and human resources in this project. For instance, according to estimates made by the Russian Foreign Ministry, creating a positive image of Russia abroad would cost about $1.5 billion a year. However, as world practice demonstrates, creating a positive, attractive image of a country abroad and the ability to speedily rebuff all attempts to denigrate and compromise its policy are worth the investment.

True, as observers indicate, the project may hit some snags traditional for Russia. These are the various bureaucratic obstacles that, together with the inefficient management and the limited imagination of bureaucrats, may brand the channel as "the Kremlin's obedient mouthpiece" which would be fatal for it, and also its irregular and inadequate financing.

In this context, the most important thing is for the new TV channel to successfully pass through the difficult period of its initial formation and confidently spread its wings in the world's information flows. Hopefully, it will avoid the sad fate of many other flashy projects.
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