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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

State Radio Stations Appeal for Funds

Directors of Russia's state-owned national radio stations made a plea for more funding at a joint press-conference Thursday, arguing they fulfill a crucial social function and cannot survive without state help.

The national channels Radio 1, Radio Russia, Mayak, Yunost and Orfei, which Russia inherited from the Soviet Union's vast government-funded TV and radio system, received only 4 percent of what was planned in the state budget, directors said.

"We are slowly dying," said Sergei Davydov, head of Radio Russia.

He complained that young journalists are not coming to work at the radio while old ones are staying only because they have no place to go. "They are not needed at the private commercial DJ stations," he said.

New private radio stations have flourished in recent years, providing tough competition for the state channels, the directors said.

The new stations are mostly on the FM band, using low-power transmitters that don't reach out to the countryside. They concentrate on low-cost music and entertainment programming that attracts advertising.

State-owned channels also carry advertising but not nearly enough to cover their higher costs. They are required to produce serious news and cultural programming and use expensive systems of high-powered long-, medium- and short-wave as well as UHF transmitters, which cover the whole territory of the former Soviet Union.

"For Russians in the near abroad, [state-owned radio stations] are the only opportunity to keep in touch with Russian culture," said Yelena Shevelyova of Radio 1.

Directors complained that their transmitters are frequently shut down because of funding shortages. State radio employees earn an average of less than $100 per month, and are often paid late.

The Moscow headquarters of Gosteleradio, the Russian broadcasting authority, has heaps of garbage rotting in the yard because the company does not have the money to pay for its removal.

Directors suggested that if the government cannot support the radio channels, it should give them over to private hands, as it did in the television industry where only one national channel remains in government hands.

"If the government does not find a way to finance us, then it should make a political decision to shut us down," said Yevgeni Pavlov, director of Yunost radio.