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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

The President's Pro Bono PR Job for NTV

Boris Jordan, the American-Russian general director of NTV, has proven to be an exceptionally ungrateful person. Rather than appreciating what was done for him, he denied the assertions of his benefactor.

Heads of major media companies met last week with President Vladimir Putin. The president faulted one television station for "showing the movements of commandos a few minutes before the raid began" at the Theater na Dubrovke, the Kommersant newspaper reported. Putin went on to inquire: "Why was this kind of thing done? To boost ratings and capitalization, and, in the final analysis, to make money. But not at any price! Not on the blood of our citizens! If, of course, the people who did this consider [those who died] to be their own."

Kommersant and everyone else took this to refer to NTV.

I, for one, was extremely happy for NTV, and for Boris Jordan personally. Ever since former NTV owner Vladimir Gusinsky was squeezed out and Yevgeny Kiselyov took his rebellious band of journalists to TV6/TVS, NTV under Jordan had come to be seen by progressives both in Russia and abroad as a symbol of the government's attack on freedom of speech.

Jordan acquired the image of an adventurist, an American collaborator with Russia's authoritarian regime.

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By all accounts, Jordan was deeply offended by all this, and he went to great lengths to remedy the situation. The web site Utro.ru published the following information a few months ago: "According to the National Journal, Russia's NTV television company in 2001 spent $1.06 million on a lobbying campaign in the United States. NTV was represented by a major lobbying firm, Patton Boggs. In 2001 the Russian television company was [Patton Boggs'] biggest client. By comparison, Microsoft spent just $440,000 on lobbyists." (The full text of this report can be found online at: www.utro.ru/news/2002041719124773380.shtml)

I can't vouch for the accuracy of the figures in this report, but I can say that NTV's PR efforts in the United States were impressive.

What's more important, however, is that NTV in recent years has turned itself into a state-of-the-art Western-style television station. Its news coverage is balanced and objective, critical of Putin and the government but not involved in information wars.

Neither NTV's quality nor the huge sums spent on lobbyists seems to have done much to erase the station's negative reputation. Until quite recently the Western press almost never referred to NTV as anything other than a station controlled by the state-owned natural gas monopoly Gazprom.

After the events at the Theater na Dubrovke, however, rumors started to spread that the Kremlin was calling for the dismissal of Savik Shuster (also a foreign citizen, by the way), a top member of NTV's news team. Suddenly the press began once more to attach the epithet "independent" to NTV.

Putin's remarks were the icing on the cake. No one now believes that NTV is a Kremlin mouthpiece. Even TVS, which was built on the ruins of the original NTV, has rushed to the defense of its once-despised colleagues. And NTV received this image overhaul free of charge.

So how did Boris Jordan reply to his benefactor?

With black ingratitude. In an interview with Kommersant, Jordan denied that Putin had NTV in mind when he criticized coverage of the raid. The only source of that information was the Kommersant reporter who had attended the meeting. And if Putin did have NTV in mind, he had obviously been given misleading information.

Strange people, these foreigners. Who's going to do them a favor after this?

Alexei Pankin is the editor of Sreda, a magazine for media professionals (www.sreda-mag.ru)