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The Moscow Times, December 5, 2003

Television Newscasts Give Kremlin a Boost

By Anna Dolgov

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 said.

"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 Friday.

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 less coverage.

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 this week.

"State media failed to meet its obligation to provide objective information to the electorate," OSCE media analyst Rastislav Kuzel said.

"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 interview.

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


See also:

the original at

State Duma elections 2003

Freedom of Speech and Media Law in Russia

The Moscow Times, December 5, 2003

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