RFE/RL press release, 24 Sept 2012
, Steve Korn, RFE/RL president: "Though we have said good-bye to some of our journalists and other colleagues, we are thankful to have had the benefit of their creativity and dedication over the years and hope they will continue to contribute their voices and ideas to the public forum. As you may have heard or read, Radio Svoboda will cease broadcasting on MW 1044 as of November 10, 2012 to be in compliance with Russian law. Although we will still be available on short waves and via satellite, our attention will now be focused on providing you with content across all digital platforms. In fact, we’re investing in the digital future so that we can better reach you on the web, on mobile devices and on apps with multimedia and interactive content. That means video, audio and text – on demand, via podcasts and, of course, live. This change in our delivery and focus makes it imperative that we take certain steps to change how we will work. We are, however, committed to three things: acting with fairness toward those of our staff who are leaving; giving those journalists who stay and those who join us new opportunities and tools to deliver the news; and providing those who are part of our audience now – and those whom we hope will join us soon – with a new and more dynamic Svoboda that keeps the tradition of excellence and brings it to a new level. We have made every effort to ensure that this is so. On October 1, Radio Svoboda’s new Director, Masha Gessen, will officially join us. Throughout the next several months, she will be working with the Svoboda team to bring a new energy and focus to our content while staying true to the Svoboda tradition of providing a media alternative where it is most needed. We will be introducing new programs and new ways of delivering content to you – and we will be looking for your feedback."
Bloomberg, 26 Sept 2012, Leonid Bershidsky: "Officially, [Radio Liberty] is getting the boot from Russia, but its Russian audience will not lose access to its content. Liberty broadcast in the AM frequency range in Russia for a little over 20 years after being allowed to do so by Russia's first president. It will cease to do so on Nov. 10, thanks to a law that forbids foreigners to own more than 48 percent of a broadcaster. Rather than try to set up an eligible Russian entity, Liberty has chosen to give up the broadcasting license and concentrate on improving its website and Internet radio service. Liberty has brought in a new Moscow bureau chief, Masha Gessen, a fiercely anti-Putin journalist who wrote a book about the Russian president titled 'The Man Without a Face.' She is expected to oversee Liberty's transformation into a modern multimedia service."
The Moscow Times, 25 Sept 2012: "About 40-50 journalists and editors were let go last week amid speculation that the broadcaster was clearing house ahead of the arrival of new director Masha Gessen. 'We knew there would be some changes, but we didn't know they would take such a harsh form. … The form was strange, unusual, harsh and unexpected,' Mumin Shakirov, who said he was abruptly laid off after 14 years at Radio Liberty. He said about 40 employees were summoned to the company's legal department on Thursday and asked not to come back to work. They were each given a severance of between four and six months' pay, he said. 'There aren't any legal demands at this point. But from an ethical point of view, it wasn't exactly pretty,' he said. ... Gessen, an outspoken Kremlin critic who has been involved in organizing opposition protests, said she wanted to make the news content at Radio Liberty unbiased. 'I want to do a kind of journalism that no one is doing at the moment. I would describe it as normal journalism. … Something that's not polemical, like opposition media, and something that's not controlled by the Kremlin,' she said." -- "Organizing opposition protests" seems strange experience for someone who wants to do "normal journalism." Nevertheless, people can and do change their hats.
openDemocracy Ltd, 26 Sept 2012, Mumin Shakirov: "The DLA Piper lawyer quietly extinguishes all our emotions and protests. His arguments are convincing: legal action against the company will be fruitless; he is making us an offer we can’t refuse; mutual agreement, severance packages, everyone to hand in their ID passes and equipment. Full stop. Nearly twenty journalists lost their jobs that day, and the same number the next. In two days, Radio Liberty’s Moscow office was shut down. Not a thank you, not a goodbye. End of the story. Curtains. Nearly twenty years of working for the station finished."
World Affairs, 27 Sept 2012, Vladimir Kara-Murza: "[T]he new restrictions only force Radio Liberty to end its medium-wave broadcasts, and do not in any way affect its short-wave or Web-based operations—which raises the question about the true motive for the breakup of one of Russia’s last independent media teams. 'The entire KGB and FSB, all the ideological departments of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union … all the [Putin propagandists] Pushkovs, Leontievs, Mamontovs, and Shevchenkos could not cause such damage to the prestige of the United States in Russia as the unknown American bureaucrats who have, in a flash, put the entire Moscow office of Radio Liberty under the knife,' asserted writer and journalist Viktor Shenderovich, bewildered at 'the very idea that you can simply replace the personnel at Radio Liberty … as if it were McDonald’s.' 'It is very difficult to look at what is happening at Radio Liberty: a wonderful, courageous, and professional team is being destroyed,' echoed opposition leader Vladimir Ryzhkov. 'It is a celebration for the enemies of freedom in Russia, a blow to the already strangled freedom of speech. Such is this ludicrous "reset."'"
It's interesting to note that BBC World News, an English-language television news channel, has 2.5 times the audience of the BBC's or RFE/RL's internet offerings in Russian. An internet strategy thrusts an international broadcaster into a vast oversupply of content, with thousands of competing websites, and millions of competing social media users.
Almost half of Russians have access to cable or DTH satellite television. The number of channels on each of these providers is generous, usually more than a hundred, but finite. A television channel on a cable or satellite system has a better chance of finding eyeballs than a website or other internet offering.
USIB could have a television channel, similar to Euronews, with one video stream and audio streams in several languages. This would require mustering all the resources of USIB. Politico-bureaucratic pressures will, however, probably maintain USIB as a feudal confederation of competing entities, duplicating effort and dividing scarce resources. Both RFE/RL and VOA will likely maintain Russian services, competing between themselves for the honor of having the less small audience.
And, finally, this... FrontPage Magazine, 24 Sept 2012, Daniel Greenfield, in article with headline "Obama Shuts Down Radio Liberty": "Sure the US could have defied the new Russian law, but it’s not exactly like we’ve got Reagan in the house here. It seems symbolically appropriate that Radio Liberty is going off the air around the time that liberty is vanishing here. These days we need a Radio Liberty to start broadcasting to us back home."
See previous post about same subject.