Staunton, April 6 – For some time, Russians have complained that Moscow television spends too much time covering foreign news and too little domestic affairs, even though surveys show that the population in fact prefers the often more dramatic stories from abroad than the most complicated domestic ones.
As a result, there have been period reports based on leaks that the Kremlin is about to change the balance given that Russians are trusting and watching central television less often than they did and that television remains the Kremlin’s most important means to shape public opinion (iarex.ru/articles/53847.html).
Yesterday, RBC reported that one of its sources near the Presidential Administration, unnamed in the story, had told the news service that officials there believe “television must devote more attention to domestic problems and not foreign policy,” especially in the run-up to the presidential election (rbc.ru/politics/05/04/2017/58e404049a79479fb5283155?from=main).
This source said that television needs to talk about “the prospects of people, the state of the economy, and the situation in the country so that there won’t be a gulf between the television agenda and those things that really disturb citizens,” something earlier investigations had pointed to as risk (znak.com/2017-02-28/dlya_sergeya_kirienko_podgotovili_issledovanie_o_rossiyskom_televidenii).
The problem is that while foreign news can be presented as a struggle of good and evil between Russia and Putin, on the one hand, and nefarious forces in the West, on the other; but domestic news often doesn’t have the same simple emotional message and hence the same political impact.
And because that is so, Sergey Markov, a Moscow political commentator, says he has strong doubts that the Kremlin will change the content of Russian television in this way because to do so could end up benefitting the Russian opposition in at least two ways (svpressa.ru/society/article/169881/).
On the one hand, greater coverage of domestic issues could drive down the share of Russians who rely on television thus limiting the power of a tool Putin has used with such success. And on the other, that change could raise questions about what Moscow is doing at home, something less emotionally charged but likely to lead to questions about Kremlin policies.