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Moskovski Komsomolets, December 24, 2002

TV Channel Did Not Like Its Viewers

By Alexander Minkin

The core of Sunday's "Itogi" ("Results") programme of the TVS channel was a 20-minutes interview with Grigory Yavlinsky.

"Itogi" is repeated on Monday morning. I wanted to see if the interview had been shortened [in the Monday broadcast], as Yavlinsky spoke very sharply about the leaders of the Union of Right-Wing Forces (SPS), on criminal privatisation and electricity sector reform. Most importantly Kiselyov (anchor and author of "Itogi") conducted the poll among viewers in a live broadcast and obtained a result , which surprised him, was bad for the SPS and disastrous for Nemtsov.

As one of the co-chairmen of the SPS is at the same time co-owner of the TVS channel (Ed. the channel that the former NTV team joined after the scandal following the change of owners of the NTV channel, to preserve the team of journalists famous for unrestrained freedom of speech) these developments were in breach of his interests. It would only be natural if he decided to cut the material.

But I was wrong. There were no cuts all. The whole of the interview with Yavlinsky was removed from the morning version of "Itogi", together with the results of the poll of the viewers.

We finally saw an obvious case of censorship.

And the censor was neither the Kremlin nor the Duma... The censor turned out to be an economic, or rather bossy character.

A journalist will never throw away interesting fragments. If the material is too big in time (for TV) or in size (for a paper), the dullest pieces are thrown away. "Itogi" has always had a surfeit of such material.

But they threw away the most interesting pieces. In other words this was the will of the master. Now we shall see whether the team of journalists of the TVS channel recognizes their master's censorship or will lie and disengage themselves, once again with the loss of freedom of speech (they have had such an experience already).

So what exactly did the censor object to?

Kiselyov asked: will YABLOKO make a coalition with the SPS?

Yavlinsky answered that he would fight for voters, but would not enter into a coalition with a party, whose leadership is responsible for the creation of a criminal economy [in Russia].

Then the anchor of "Itogi" proposed asking TV viewers: whether they would welcome a union between the democrats (meaning YABLOKO + SPS)?

The result:

1.887 - for the union

2.660 - against.

This is a very important result. This means that if they engaged in a coalition to win votes, they would lose more than they would gain. Moreover they would lose dedicated allies and gain unstable new voters, who would then drop them with the same ease.

Prior to the interview with Yavlinsky, "Itogi" broadcast the congress of the Union of Right-Wing Forces, where Nemtsov said the following,

"The chances of a coalition with YABLOKO are extremely low. But we would like to go along this way to the end, so that we could later say to our supporters, "Friends, we have done all we could to create a coalition. But unfortunately our partners are extremely ambitious and think only about themselves."

Was Nemtsov sincere in his desire to create a "coalition"? No, he is pretending here. He is cynical and imitates intention for the sake of votes. He uses the topic of an alliance to portray himself as the good guy and Yavlinsky as the bad guy. He reiterates his "partner's" ambitions and egotism. But if you honestly wanted such a union, you would not publicly defame your desired ally everywhere, unless insults and mockery represent the "whole way by the end"?

For Nemtsov the coalition would be fatal. If the SPS and YABLOKO entered into an alliance, it would become necessary to identify a single leader at the forthcoming elections. Here the same "Itogi" programme buried a union that had already been a sandcastle.

Either out of a desire to smooth unpleasant result of the poll for the, or wishing to put in his place his "extremely ambitious" guest, Kiselyov asked viewers the following question: "If the alliance were to happen, who should be the single candidate: Nemtsov? Yavlinsky? Someone else?"

The result:

Nemtsov - 420

Yavlinsky - 3.372

Someone else - 582

And that's it. This topic does not require any further discussion.

Nemtsov has tried everything [to raise his rating]: pulled himself up the horizontal bar, got arrested in Belarus, almost reached the theatre taken by terrorists and almost switched bureaucrats to "Volgas" (Ed. Russian automobiles) [from foreign cars] - it is difficult to recollect all these occasions.

But all this has not helped. He has even had to cut a news-and-analytical programme. And so radically!

Saying good-bye to Kiselyov in the live broadcast, Yavlinsky predicted,

- You will be reprimanded for such questions.

- By whom? - the anchor feigned innocence.

...Yavlinsky will not be invited on live broadcasts any more. This means that the TVS channel will, as always, pamper us with Zhirinovsky, Shandybin, Mitrofanov, fools and hooligans - they are good both for ratings and do not encroach on the right-wing electorate.

See also:
Elections to the State Duma, 2003
Presidential Elections 2004

Moskovski Komsomolets, December 24, 2002

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