| Newscasts on Russia's main television channels generally
reflect the Kremlin's position in Sunday's State Duma elections, monitoring
conducted over the past week by The Moscow Times shows.
Alongside widespread, complimentary coverage of the main pro-Kremlin
party, United Russia, news programs carried predominantly unflattering
reports about its main rival, the Communist Party.
According to monitoring conducted between Nov. 28 and Dec. 4, state-controlled
Channel One made no mention of any party except United Russia in the earlier
of its two daily prime-time newscasts, although it reported on other contenders
in its 9 p.m. newscast.
Throughout the week, both Channel One and state-owned Rossia were flooded
with reports about United Russia leaders on occasions as varied as dropping
in at a rock concert, touring a dairy factory and cutting the ribbon at
a new bridge.
A lone report about a visit to Tver by Communist Party leader Gennady
Zyuganov also aired on Rossia.
But the Tver piece came after news in preceding days about Communist
veterans protesting against the new rich in their ranks -- and Zyuganov
saying the Communists would drop out of an informal goodwill pact to refrain
from dirty campaign tactics during the election.
The law prohibits selective coverage of campaign events, so if a media
outlet reports about events staged by one candidate, it must also report
all the others.
But if a party campaigns more than its competitors, it can legitimately
get more coverage, Central Elections Commission legal expert Maya Grishina
"If Zyuganov also opened a bridge somewhere, it should have been
reported, too. [But] we don't keep track of his movements," she said,
adding that as long as parties have not complained to the commission that
their campaign events were being ignored, nothing could be done.
Newscasts on NTV -- once the country's leading independent network,
but now owned by state-controlled Gazprom -- appeared more balanced.
But United Russia still racked up five reports or comments by its leaders
on NTV newscasts. The Union of Right Forces, or SPS, was next with three.
President Vladimir Putin has said on a number of occasions that he would
like to see United Russia win the Duma elections, and praised the party
again in a lengthy interview that aired on all three main channels last
In all, United Russia representatives featured 18 times on Channel One
and 12 times on Rossia.
On all three main channels, the liberal Yabloko and SPS parties and
the ultranationalist Liberal Democratic Party have received significantly
The slant appears to have become a consistent trend on national television
since the last privately owned channel, TVS, was shut down this summer.
The results of this week's monitoring are consistent with those of a
similar survey conducted by The Moscow Times in September, and with those
reported by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe earlier
"State media failed to meet its obligation to provide objective
information to the electorate," OSCE media analyst Rastislav Kuzel
"We have found that Channel One and Rossia have been providing
United Russia with extensive positive or neutral coverage. There was an
approximately similar amount of time given to the Communist Party, but
it was different in tone, and mostly negative," Kuzel said in a telephone
Zyuganov complained in a letter to Putin on Monday that state channels
were disseminating "lies and slander" about the Communist Party.
But the CEC's Grishina said Zyuganov failed to provide any specific
evidence to the electoral authorities.
"All our requests that they provide information demonstrating that
their campaign events were not reported, or reported in an negative light,
were left unanswered," she said.
Yana Valueva contributed to this report
the original at
State Duma elections 2003
Freedom of Speech
and Media Law in Russia