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Wednesday, June 08, 2005


New channel to 'give Russia positive image'

From Kommersant:

The startup of a new, 24-hour English-language information channel called Russia Today was officially announced yesterday. Its primary objective is to give Western viewers a positive image of Russia. Everyone involved in the project vigorously denies its propaganda value or that the Kremlin had a part in it. Meanwhile, the channel will be financed from the state budget; its founder is the state-controlled RIA-Novosti news agency, and its secret guardian is presidential advisor Mikhail Lesin.

”I'd like to show my country as I see it,” said Margarita Simonian, a former Kremlin pool journalist from the television station Rossiya, who is now the editor-in-chief of Russia Today. Towards the end of this year, English-speaking viewers abroad will be able to find out what is happening in Russia and its influence on and reaction to world events.

The idea for a project to form a positive image of Russia abroad is nothing new – Press Minister Mikhail Lesin spoke of it back in 2001, but at that time it seemed more like propaganda. “I stopped being ashamed of the word propaganda' a long time ago,” the former minister said. “We have to promote Russia on the international market – we have to promote a positive image. We look like bears to them. We run around and growl.”

According to Kommersant's information, the launch of a 24-hour English-language information channel was the president's first serious assignment for Lesin. After resigning from the position of minister in February 2004, Lesin became the president's advisor on the media, sports, and tourism and essentially faded into the background. At first, it was planned to launch the new project by September 11, in time for the opening of the 60th UN General Assembly in New York, but those plans fell through. As Kommersant sources in the Kremlin reported, at best, Russia Today will go on the air in December due to various organizational and technical difficulties.

In answering a question about the role of the state and the Kremlin in setting up the channel, Seslavinsky explained at length yesterday that setting up the channel without state assistance was virtually impossible. “The presidential administration, Mikhail Lesin, and Aleksey Gromov know about this project and support it,” Seslavinsky explained. “They're interested in it, but they won't be occupied with editorial policy every week. I don't know where in the corridors of power there's a special department where people sit and cross out things in English with a red pencil.”

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