NEWSLINK: Putin dissolves state news agency, tightens grip on Russia media

File Photo of Little Russian Girl at Laptop Next to Globe

[Putin dissolves state news agency, tightens grip on Russia media – Reuters – Timothy Heritage – December 9 – http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/12/09/us-russia-media-idUSBRE9B80I120131209]

Reuters covers Russia President Vladimir Putin’s decision to dissolve RIA Novosti and absorb its operations into new entity called Rossiya Segodnya, with a mission of promoting Russia abroad:

President Vladimir Putin tightened his control over Russia’s media on Monday by dissolving the main state news agency and replacing it with an organisation that is to promote Moscow’s image abroad.

The move to abolish RIA Novosti and create a news agency to be known as Rossiya Segodnya is the second in two weeks strengthening Putin’s hold on the media as he tries to reassert his authority after protests against his rule.

A few weeks ago, there was also an effort to extend state-owned gas giant Gazprom’s impact on Russia television and radio:

The Kremlin extended its grip over radio and television broadcasting on November 26 when the media arm of state-controlled Gazprom bought mining tycoon Vladimir Potanin’s Profmedia.

Through the deal, the ex-Soviet gas ministry – now Russia’s largest firm by revenue – will add TV and radio stations, cinemas and film production and distribution assets to a sprawling portfolio built up around commercial channel NTV.

The move to dissolve RIA Novosti comes in a context of the Russian government wanting to bolster its image and that of Russia, while Kremlin aide Sergei Ivanov argued that cost savings were also an issue:

Most Russian media outlets are already loyal to Putin, and opponents get little air time, but the shake-up underlined their importance to Putin keeping power and the Kremlin’s concern about the president’s ratings and image.
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“The main focus of … Rossiya Segodnya (Russia Today) is to highlight abroad the state policy and public life of the Russian Federation,” said a decree signed by Putin.

Sergei Ivanov, the head of the presidential administration, told reporters that the changes were intended to save money and improve the state media.

RIA Novosti itself highlighted shifts towards greater govermental control of news media:

RIA said in an English-language article about Putin’s step: “The move is the latest in a series of shifts in Russia’s news landscape which appear to point towards a tightening of state control in the already heavily regulated media sector.”

The new head of Rossiya Segodnya, Dmitry Kiselyov, is described as a controversial figure for pointed remarks made as a television personality, and has been painted by some as a propagandist:

A prominent member of parliament, Alexei Mitrofanov, described Kiselyov as a “powerful propagandist” but said this was a good thing and that he was suitable for the job.
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Kiselyov has proved a loyal Putin supporter as a television presenter, at times making provocative remarks. …

Reuters suggests that, while the dissolution of RIA Novosti has not direct impact upon state-run ITAR-TASS or  private sector media entity Interfax, both could benefit from the fact the RIA Novosti’s successor might represent less competition for them within the Russian market itself.

It is unclear how the new entity might interact with state-owned RT television, created as Russia Today.

 

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