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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

No Award For News Coverage This Year

The television industry has decided to punish itself for last year’s "information wars" by canceling the news category in its annual awards. (See editorial.)

The Russian Television Academy, which is composed of television veterans and acts as the jury for the TEFI awards, voted "almost unanimously" to exclude the news category from this year’s awards, which will be handed out on Oct. 21, academy member Sergei Muratov said Tuesday.

Muratov, creator of the once wildly popular show "KVN," or Club of Jolly Quick-Wits, and a professor of journalism at Moscow State University, said the academy was skipping the news award to protest the behavior of the major stations during last year’s parliamentary elections.

At that time ORT, and to a lesser extent RTR, fed viewers a daily stream of negative reports about Fatherland-All Russia leaders Yury Luzhkov and Yevgeny Primakov and Yabloko leader Grigory Yavlinsky.

Meanwhile, NTV — which traditionally wins the TEFI for best news program — boosted Luzhkov, Primakov and Yavlinsky, while criticizing the Kremlin and the pro-government Unity party. But NTV’s coverage was not nearly as slanted as that of the other two stations.

NTV director Yevgeny Kiselyov, who is also a member of the academy, has protested the decision to skip the news award, saying NTV should not suffer for the mistakes of the other stations.

"It seems to me that … this is an attempt to equate those who tried to work objectively and honestly and those who eagerly let themselves be used as propaganda weapons," he said in remarks reported by Kommersant.

Muratov agreed that NTV had committed far fewer sins than the other stations, but said that did not solve the problem.

"NTV would have had no competition," Muratov said in a telephone interview. "It would be no contest."

Oleg Dobrodeyev, head of RTR’s parent company VGTRK, and Konstantin Ernst, director of ORT — also members of the academy — told Kommersant they approved of the decision.

"You have to have the courage to admit that the information services of all the big channels were engaged in political agitation last fall," Ernst said. "Meanwhile, the TEFI award is for 'best information program,' and not 'least effective propaganda.'"

Muratov said the academy needed to do more to solve the problems in television. Instead of simply giving out prizes, it should also analyze the quality of televison and publish its findings.

Muratov said the quality of television news had improved since last fall.

"But I don’t think the television stations have learned their lesson; that’s why the academy should act as a thinker," he said.