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Russia profile - Media

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image copyrightGetty Images
image captionTV is the main source of news for most Russians

Television is the most powerful sector of the media industry and the main news source for most Russians, although its dominance is being eroded by the internet.

The top national TV networks are either state-run or owned by companies with close links to the Kremlin. The government controls Channel One and Rossiya 1 - the leading channels - while state-run energy giant Gazprom owns NTV.

The thriving pay-TV market is led by the satellite platform Tricolor. A project to bring digital TV to every Russian home is close to completion, although some analogue transmissions continue.

RT, launched in 2005 as the state-funded English-language TV station Russia Today, is the flagship of Russia's international media operations. It has launched TV networks in Arabic, Spanish and French.

Since the Ukraine crisis, Russian state media have intensified the pro-Kremlin and nationalistic tone of their broadcasts, pumping out a regular diet of adulation for Mr Putin, nationalistic pathos, fierce rejection of Western influence and attacks on the Kremlin's enemies.

Some observers have accused pro-Kremlin TV of spreading disinformation and conducting an information war both at home and abroad.

There are more than 3,000 licensed radio stations. The three main state networks Radio Rossii, Mayak and Vesti FM compete with music-based commercial stations.

Of the 18,000 registered newspapers, 20 can be described as national titles. The most popular papers are pro-Kremlin, and several influential dailies are owned by companies with close links to the Kremlin.

Risks

Russian journalists run the risk of attack and even murder if they delve too deeply into sensitive subjects such as corruption, organised crime or rights abuses. Russia is a regular target for criticism and condemnation from media freedom watchdogs.

A 2016 law caps foreign ownership of media outlets at 20 per cent. Some foreign companies have either quit the market or else ceded majority control of their Russian operations to local partners.

The total number of internet users in Russia aged over 12 was 95 million in 2019, equating to more than 78% of the population, according to state-owned audience researcher Mediascope.

While the internet is less tightly controlled than traditional media, the Kremlin has made moves to restrict online freedoms.

Laws allow the authorities to block websites without explanation, require popular bloggers to register with the mass media regulator Roskomnadzor and demand that internet companies give the authorities access to users' information.

Internet users have increasingly found themselves the target of criminal prosecutions for their online activity, sometimes resulting in prison terms.

The authorities are keen to curb the influence of major international internet companies. The so-called Sovereign Internet Law, which came into effect in November 2019, paves the way for making the Russian internet an autonomous entity separate from the World Wide Web.

Two companies stand out on the internet market in Russia: Yandex, which runs the top search engine; and the Mail.ru Group, which owns two of the most popular social networks, VKontakte and Odnoklassniki.

image copyrightArgumenty i Fakty
image captionHundreds of papers cater for a variety of tastes
  • Komsomolskaya Pravda - mass circulation, pro-Kremlin tabloid
  • Kommersant - daily, business-orientated, controlled by steel tycoon Alisher Usmanov
  • Moskovsky Komsomolets - popular privately-owned Moscow daily
  • Izvestia - popular pro-Kremlin daily, owned by media holding NMG
  • Rossiyskaya Gazeta - government-owned daily
  • Nezavisimaya Gazeta - influential privately-owned daily
  • Argumenty i Fakty - popular weekly, owned by Promsvyazbank
  • Novaya Gazeta - publishes three times a week, known for its investigative journalism
  • RBC - business daily
  • Vedomosti - financial daily
  • Rossiya 1 - national network, run by state-owned Russian State Television and Radio Broadcasting Company (VGTRK)
  • Channel One - national network, 51% owned by state, 49% by private shareholders
  • NTV - national network, owned by state-run Gazprom
  • Centre TV - owned by Moscow city government
  • Ren TV - Moscow-based commercial station with strong regional network, majority-owned by media holding NMG
  • RT - state-funded, international English-language news channel, via satellite
image copyrightMayak
  • Radio Rossii - national network run by state-owned Russian State Television and Radio Broadcasting Company (VGTRK)
  • Vesti FM - state-owned, news and talk
  • Ekho Moskvy - editorially-independent, majority owned by state-run Gazprom
  • Radio Mayak - state-run national network
  • Russkoye Radio - major private network, music-based
  • Sputnik - state-run external multimedia platform; offers radio broadcasts in some 30 languages
  • TASS - state-owned news agency, pages in English
  • Interfax - private news agency, pages in English
  • Lenta.ru - popular online news source
  • The Moscow Times - English-language news site, successor to now defunct newspaper
  • Rambler.ru - major portal
  • Sputnik - state-run international-facing multimedia platform; services in many languages
  • Yandex.ru - leading search engine
  • VKontakte - leading social network