[home page][map of the server][news of the server][forums][publications][Yabloko's Views]

Gazeta.ru, October 17, 2003

Live TV debates cause first election scuffle

By Ksenia Solyanskaya

The State Duma is set to press the leading federal channels to broadcast the forthcoming parliamentary election debates live, not in pre-recorded form. A draft resolution to this effect was approved on Thursday by the Duma Council, the Duma’s governing body. The channels concerned said they would not object, but if the deputies insist on live broadcasts, they would be required to turn up in TV studios as early as 05:00 in the morning.

On Friday, the State Duma’s deputies are to review the draft address to the management of two leading state-run television networks, Channel One, and Rossia, with the request to broadcast election debates live. The draft was initiated by a faction of the liberal Yabloko party in the lower house.

“Showing debates pre-recorded renders them senseless, violates the constitutional right of citizens to information, and fails to conform to the spirit of the law “On the main guarantees of electoral rights of citizens,” the draft reads. The draft was approved unanimously by the Duma council on Thursday, lower house speaker Gennady Seleznyov told the press.

To recap, on Tuesday this week two state-run television channels said they would broadcast taped versions of the upcoming election debates. “There are absolutely clear and objective reasons for that. Firstly, we must broadcast them at a time acceptable for our audience,” the head of the Channel One’s public relations department Igor Burenkov explained.

Burenkov went on to say that the parties treat the idea of such debates differently, and the channel’s management “cannot risk the time slots if someone fails to turn up”. According to the Channel One representative, another reason in favour of broadcasting taped versions is that records may be shortened and polished. “And besides, if an editor cuts out some defects and tedious passages, the programme would only benefit from that,” Burenkov said.

And that was what hurt Yabloko's deputies most. “Particularly unacceptable is any kind of editing of the statements of the debate’s participants. Showing debates in their taped version may evoke suspicion of falsifications. Even if the records are only slightly edited, such accusations are inevitable,” Yabloko’s Sergei Mitrokhin and Sergei Ivanenko wrote in the draft.

The decision of Channel One and VGTRK (The All-Russian State Television and Radio Broadcasting Corporation, that owns the Rossia Channel) to broadcast taped versions of election debates outraged not only Duma deputies.

The chairman of the electoral watchdog, Vybory-2003, Andrei Przhezdomsky said that “the management of the television channels, to all appearances, seek to guard themselves against some tough sanctions”. In his opinion, the channels’ fears are caused by the “psychosis caused by anticipation of powerful unlawful tricks, especially those involving the media”.

The Central Election Committee chairman, Alexander Veshnyakov, could not refrain from commenting either. "We are very interested in having live pre-election debates on the most pressing current problems," he said, emphasizing that the candidates themselves, not the television stations, would bear responsibility for what is said.

A deputy from the Unity faction Frants Klintsevich, admitted to Gazeta.Ru that for him it makes no difference whether the channels broadcast debates live or not. “All the same, I think nothing should be taken out from a concrete dialogue between politicians.” “At the same time, [Channel One director general Konstantin] Ernst’s position could save many people who are inclined to express nationalistic ideas on air”.

Rossia representatives told Gazeta.Ru on Thursday, that the final decision on broadcasting election debates in their taped version has not yet been taken, but that the CEC’s recommendation would be taken into consideration.

A special studio for holding the debates is currently being prepared, and if the channel’s management considers it expedient, the candidates will be invited to take part in televised duels starting as early as 0500 in the morning, so that the debate could be broadcasted live in all of the country’s 11 time zones.


See also:

Freedom of Speech and Media Law in Russia

Elections to the State Duma, 2003

Gazeta.ru, October 17, 2003

[home page][map of the server][news of the server][forums][publications][Yabloko's Views]

Project Director: Vyacheslav Erohin e-mail: admin@yabloko.ru Director: Olga Radayeva, e-mail: english@yabloko.ru
Administrator: Vlad Smirnov, e-mail: vladislav.smirnov@yabloko.ru