Television and Presidential Power in Putin's Russia

Television and Presidential Power in Putin's Russia

Television and Presidential Power in Putin's Russia

Television and Presidential Power in Putin's Russia

Synopsis

As a new president takes power in Russia, this book provides an analysis of the changing relationship between control of Russian television media and presidential power during the tenure of President Vladimir Putin. It argues that the conflicts within Russia's political and economic elites, and President Putin's attempts to rebuild the Russian state after its fragmentation during the Yeltsin administration, are the most significant causes of changes in Russian media. Tina Burrett demonstrates that President Putin sought to increase state control over television as part of a larger programme aimed at strengthening the power of the state and the position of the presidency at its apex, and that such control over the media was instrumental to the success of the president's wider systemic changes that have redefined the Russian polity.

The book also highlights the ways in which oligarchic media owners in Russia used television for their own political purposes, and that media manipulation was not the exclusive preserve of the Kremlin, but a common pattern of behaviour in elite struggles in the post-Soviet era. Basing its analysis predominately on interviews with key players in the Moscow media and political elites, and on secondary sources drawn from the Russian and Western media, the book examines broad themes that have been the subject of constant media interest, and have relevance beyond the confines of Russian politics.

Excerpt

When Putin entered the Kremlin in March 2000, Russia was a collapsing state in economic crisis. Regional leaders openly advocated separatist policies, nowhere more devastatingly than in Chechnya, which was again plunged into war. Living standards for the majority of Russians were in decline, while the politically connected elite accumulated obscene levels of wealth. Putin promised Russia a new start. During the 2000 election, Putin captured hearts and minds – and consequently the presidency – with his pledge to re-establish order and the power of the state.

Although a reassertion of state authority and the rule of law were long overdue, Putin’s vision of a strong state prioritised consolidating his administration and enhancing the power of the presidency over putting an end to lawlessness. Putin’s ‘dictatorship of the law’ was selectively applied. Its first victims were the mediaowning oligarchs Vladimir Gusinsky and Boris Berezovsky. In tof the state, Putin vowed to remove the media from the influence of the politicised capital of the oligarchs. Control over national television was Putin’s primary concern owing to its considerable audience reach vis-à-vis other forms of communication.

This book charts Putin’s relationship with the Russian national television media during his eight years as president. It argues that increased state control over television was instrumental to the success of Putin’s wider systemic changes that have redefined the Russian polity since 2000. Research is based on transcripts of Russian television news and political programming and first-hand interviews with senior politicians, journalists and media executives working in the Moscow-based television sector. I should note that I have followed the transliteration system used by the British Standard Institute. As transliteration systems differ, however, for the names of key individuals, I have used the variant most commonly seen in the Western press.

The book does not attempt to provide a comprehensive history of television in Putin’s Russia, but seeks to illuminate the critical role television played in key events and for key political actors and institutions. As such, individual chapters deal with specific issues and arguments. The first chapter offers an introduction . . .

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