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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

The Shouting Drowns Out the Debate

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In his state of the nation address on April 3, President Vladimir Putin stated that the era of revolution in Russia was over. On the very same day, the long-simmering conflict between Gazprom and the journalists of NTV threw the nation back about 12 or 13 years to the demonstration-laden days of late perestroika. That was the time, as Gleb Pavlovsky used to like to note, when everyone shouted all the time, but no one seriously discussed anything. Partially for this reason, all subsequent state policy was formulated on a crisis-reaction basis.

Strictly speaking, the publication of a special edition of Obshchaya Gazeta on Saturday was the embodiment of this phenomenon.

Nearly 160 newspapers and other media organizations placed their logos in support of NTV, almost two-thirds of them representing regional media. Many of the ones with which I am familiar (such as the newspaper Svobodny Kurs in Barnaul and Afontovo-TV in Krasnoyarsk) are the complete opposite of NTV, in the sense that they built up their companies independently without relying on constant infusions of cash from the state.

Readers might be interested, then, in knowing why these regional companies decided to support their opposite number.

Alas, the special edition — of which 300,000 copies were printed — contained only a few protest letters from public organizations and some articles by journalists from Obshchaya Gazeta and Novaya Gazeta, as well as a dozen pieces by Russian intellectuals and foreign dignitaries. Once again, the provinces were just a decoration for Moscow's games.

In the president's speech, though, and in a number of recent press articles one can find some ideas for a perfectly civilized way out of the present conflict.

In the Obshchaya Gazeta special edition, Mikhail Fedotov — former press minister and author of the current Law on Mass Media — states that one of the reasons for the crisis is that Russia has disregarded international standards "for preventing the excessive concentration" of media ownership.

Moskovsky Komsomolets (April 7), writing from a somewhat different angle, also raises the issue of the danger of monopolizationin discussing certain Duma deputies' enthusiasm about the arrival of American media magnate Ted Turner.

So, how can NTV be organized so as to make it really independent? Vitaly Tretyakov, editor of Nezavisimaya Gazeta, sees the present NTV more like an opposition political party than a mass-media outlet. He wrote on April 5 that the most democratic solution would be to give one-third of NTV's shares to "the second branch of the opposition" — i.e., the Communists. This would counterbalance the control of the station exercised by the party of power and its previous owner.

Paradoxical as it might sound, this idea is the closest I have seen to the model of public (not to be confused with "state") television, which was described in detail in Vedomosti on April 6.

Putin, in the foreign-policy part of his address, emphasized the importance of further integration with the European Union.

The EU — and particularly Germany — views the prevention of media monopolization and the existence of public broadcasting as integral to any modern nation.

Creating a public television station on the basis of the present NTV could be Putin's contribution to resolving the crisis, a step that everyone has been calling on him to take.

Putin, of course, will have no trouble getting Gazprom to go along. Vladimir Gusinsky has said many times that he is not concerned about money, but about NTV's independence. So I don't see why he would object either.

Alexei Pankin is editor of Sreda, a magazine for media professionals (www.internews.ru/sreda).