Campaigners accused the Kremlin today of killing off the last vestiges of independent television in Russia, after it emerged that the two remaining private TV channels would come under state control next year.
REN TV and St Petersburg's Fifth Channel, which are sometimes critical of the authorities, have until now been Russia's last semi-independent private TV stations. Although neither can be described as radical, they are the only channels on which
opposition politicians can air their views, or where dissenting voices may be heard.
Next year both channels' news bulletins will be restructured, Russia's Kommersant newspaper reported today. The state-owned, pro-Kremlin English language television station Russia Today will take over responsibility for their news broadcasts from
2010, the paper added.
Journalists said they were appalled by the move. This means independent TV will be destroyed. It will disappear, said Oleg Ptashkin, a former correspondent with Russia's state-run Channel One TV. Ptashkin, who now runs an independent
journalists' union, added: Russians won't be able to find alternative views to state propaganda. We are returning to the Soviet regime and Soviet model.
Until now, the Kremlin has not interfered with REN TV or the Fifth Channel, which are watched by only 10-15% of Russia's population. But the economic crisis, and fear of a popular uprising, appears to have persuaded Russia's risk-averse
leadership to pull the plug on the last surviving television platforms for liberal views and discussion.
Russia's ruling party has proposed legislation to increase censorship for children, the BBC Russian service has reported.
TV and radio news programs featuring episodes of violence, destruction, disasters, death and the like should be put off-air during daytime because they are harmful for children's psychology, said the draft legislation proposed by the
United Russia party.
The proposed legislation submitted defines daytime as a period from 6am to 10pm.
After 10pm, TV programs should be accompanied with a warning about the dangerous content of the upcoming program.
Dangerous content is defined as those promoting drugs, smoking, alcohol, gambling, prostitution, begging and vagrancy as well as materials that deny family values or provoke people into committing crimes.
The bill proposed that the first and the last pages of printed media should not bear any information that might be harmful for children's health. Otherwise, these editions must be sold in non-transparent covers, as must be adult magazines.
Experts said some definitions in the proposal are too vogue, and if the bill becomes law, it will result in banning nearly all the news programs.
Russia's Communist Party has submitted a bill to the State Duma aimed at creating a Supreme Council on the Protection of Morality on state TV channels and radio stations.
The bill is awaiting consideration by lower house legislators during their last session prior to the December elections.
If approved, a specially-created body would make appraisals or, at least, express opinions on the extent to which TV and radio broadcasts promote public morality, one of the authors of the initiative, MP Nina Ostanina, told Itar-Tass.
This is not meant as an instrument of censorship, Ostanina claimed. In contrast to the situation in the Soviet era, the moral assessment would be made after rather than before a TV or radio program went on air.. . [BUT]
... In any case, it would send a signal to conscientious producers of TV programs when broadcasts are unacceptable to public morals.
The bill makes no provision for any punishment or sanctions against broadcasters who regularly violate the rules of morality. The council would, however, have the right to appeal to the state leadership and a channel's majority shareholders as
well as to urge the public to show its disapproval.
However another Communist faction deputy, Sergey Obukhov, suggested that the watchdog bodies should have far more extensive powers, including the defining of TV channels' program policy. The television has been turned into a scrapheap, Obukhov observed. The council's task would be to sort that scrapheap out and bring Russian TV up to European standards.
As for the membership of such TV watchdogs, the MP believes they could be comprised of representatives of political parties and public organizations, as well as members of society with moral authority .
A Russian national TV channel is going to censor The Simpsons . In light of a new law banning displays of violence, drinking, and smoking on TV before 11pm, the young adult-targeted channel 2x2 will remove all scenes with the
show's violent spoof cartoon The Itchy & Scratchy Show starting Friday.
The channel's general director Lev Makarov told AFP:
We will retouch in an ironic way all the programs where there are scenes that fall under the new law. For example, we will black-out the screen and write a jokey message in a rolling caption.
Makarov said the animated series South Park , on the other hand, will not be aired before 11pm because creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone insist on killing Kenny in almost every episode.
The classic Soviet-era children's cartoon Nu, pogodi! featuring a hapless wolf trying to catch a crafty rabbit, is another victim of the new censorship law. It features a character with a lit cigarette or ten, dangling from his lips.
Longtime fans of Nu, pogodi! are dismayed at the news that it may be relegated to late-night time slots due to the prodigious tobacco use by its star.
The new law supposedly aimed at protecting children under the age of 18 from programming featuring drinking, smoking, or drug use comes into force on September 1.
A Russian MP has produced a bill that would limit what he describes as negative TV content to 30% of air time in a move to ensure people are fed a diet of propaganda
The draft law defines what is acceptable and what should be kept away from viewer's eyes. Journalists should inform people rather than show explicit bloody details in news, the author of the initiative, Oleg Mikheyev told Izvestia daily.
The MP insists the point of the law is not to introduce censorship... .[BUT] ... In his opinion, people just cannot deal with all the negative information they get from the media.
Reports from sites of accidents and terrorist acts that provide close-up view of injured people cause psychological trauma, Mikheyev spewed.
Under the proposal, such content, as well as videos of violence against animals, acts of suicide and paedophilia should be completely banned. Heads of TV channels and journalists who violate the law would face up to six years behind bars.
The propaganda idea was welcomed in the ruling United Russia Party, which may soon develop its own more specific version of the bill. A person should be informed without scenes of violence and horror, a senior member of the party,
Valery Trapeznikov noted.
A Russian television station that made its name covering massive street protests against President Vladimir Putin has been taken off the air by three television providers in a move the channel's chief said was censorship.
Dozhd (TV Rain), an independent-minded television station with a strong online presence, has aired aggressive reporting critical of Russian authorities and even-handed broadcasts on Ukraine's anti-government protests.
General Director Natalia Sindeyeva said three providers had dropped the channel in and around Moscow. The station was still available on two major providers in the Moscow area.
The Dozhd has been under pressure since it ran exposes on expensive property owned by high-ranking Kremlin officials. And more recently Dozhd has faced criticism after poking old wounds by asking if Leningrad, now St Petersburg, should have been
given to Nazi Germany to save lives during a 872-day blockade during World War Two.
Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Russian agency Interfax that the survey was beyond what was acceptable from the moral and ethical point of view of our people .
Russia's TV and radio censor Roskomnadzor has issued an official warning to the Govorit Moskva radio station for broadcasting a program on swingers.
In the warning, Roskomnadzor said that an episode of the station's program Underground that was broadcast in May had violated the law on protecting children from harmful information. The program rejected traditional family values, according to the warning, such programs are only allowed after the watershed.
This may sound reasonable, but in fact the watershed hours are simply unviable being set at 11pm until 4am. Govorit Moskva's program was broadcast at 2:30 pm.
Govorit Moskva said in an online article Friday that the program was devoted to the culture of swinging, in which participants swap sexual partners.
The radio station will appeal the decision.
Under Russian law, if a media outlet gets two warnings within a year, Roskomadzor can ask a court to revoke its publishing license.