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Why All Autocracies Need State-Run Media

Published: February 7, 2014 (Issue # 1796)


The unprecedented price tag of the Sochi Winter Olympics — an estimated $51 billion — far outstrips that of any past Winter Games. The Sochi Games' bloated costs are widely understood to be a result of massive graft that is ending up in the hands of a small Kremlin-connected circle.

This sort of high-profile corruption should receive serious journalistic scrutiny, but in Putin's Russia state-run media avoid coverage of how these enormous resources have vanished. For most of the Russian public, this issue and others, such as the Kremlin's recent $15 billion aid package to Ukraine taken out of the National Reserve Fund, are not a subject of discussion because they do not receive critical attention in the mass media.

Despite the Internet, the Kremlin is finding new ways to use its media to stay in power.

The state-run media treatment of the Sochi Games' huge levels of corruption speaks to the ongoing ability of the authorities to adapt their media tactics and prevent independent news and analysis from reaching much of the population.

Related: Putin Shuts State News Agency

Despite the rise of new media outlets that are generally far more diverse and competitive than they used to be, authoritarian regimes are finding alarmingly effective ways to use media to help themselves stay in power. Media outlets controlled formally or informally by the state have become necessary to the durability of undemocratic governments around the world like Russia. The messages that such media pump out — and the public apathy that they promote — help to keep regime elites from defecting and prevent alternative power centers from rising within society.

The media outlets in question may be owned and run by the state, or they may be nominally private but, in reality, under government control. Most authoritarian regimes employ both their own state media and private media to do their bidding.

Related: Razing Russia’s Fourth Estate

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Friday, Apr. 18


Teachers and students alike shouldn’t miss the opportunity to establish lasting contacts with Russian and foreign institutions during the 21st Education and Career Fair at LenExpo, beginning today and finishing tomorrow. Learn more about education in Russia and connect with your fellow scholars.


The Tromso International Film Festival, Norway’s largest, brings a short festival to St. Petersburg for one day only during Scandinavian Oddities, starting at 7 p.m. today at Rodina Cinema Center. Tickets for the event are 100 rubles ($2.80).


Sunday, Apr. 20


Celebrate Easter at Pavlovsk during the Easter Fair that begins today and continues through next Sunday. Visitors will have the chance to paint Easter eggs and children can take part in games as well as help decorate a tree in honor of Christianity’s holiest day.


Today is one of the final days to see the exhibit Cacti — Children of the Sun at the Peter the Great Botanical Garden. Starting Apr. 17, budding botanists will marvel at the variety and beauty of the desert’s most iconic plant.


Monday, Apr. 21


Improve your grasp of Neruda, Bolano and Marquez at TrueDA’s Beginners Spanish Lesson this evening at their location on the Petrograd Side. An experienced teacher will be on hand to help all attendees better understand the intricacies of the language and improve their accent.


Tuesday, Apr. 22


SPIBA’s Breakfast with the Director event series continues as the association welcomes Andrei Barannikov, general director of SPN Communications, to the Anna Pavlova Hall of the Angleterre Hotel this morning at 9 a.m. Attendees must confirm their participation by Apr. 21.


The AmCham Environment, Health and Safety Committee Meeting is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. this morning in the their St. Petersburg office.