Russia profile - Media

Published
Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
TV 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.

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

News and current affairs shows on mainstream TV are dominated by pro-Kremlin messages and denigration of the West.

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 16,000 registered newspapers, 22 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.

Major newspaper publishers have weathered a decline in print circulations by becoming multimedia operations.

Risks

There is widespread suppression of politically sensitive material in much of the media. Journalists who criticise the authorities face possible reprisals, including physical violence and judicial harassment.

Critical media outlets are subject to various pressures, including economic pressure, making it difficult for them to remain commercially viable. The number and reach of independent media have greatly diminished during Vladimir Putin's years in power.

Around 80% of Russians are online. While the internet is less tightly controlled than traditional media, the authorities have extended their control over cyberspace, passing laws to allow the blocking of content and to give the security services greater access to user data.

Officials are keen to curb the influence of global internet giants. The 2019 Sovereign Internet Law paves the way for what is called an "autonomous" or "sovereign" internet within Russia.

The authorities are increasingly at odds with US big tech companies, Google, Facebook and Twitter, most recently because of restrictions placed on content from Russian state media.

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.

The press

Image source, Argumenty i Fakty
Image caption,
Hundreds of papers cater for a variety of tastes

Television

  • 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

Radio

Image source, Mayak
  • 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
  • Mayak - state-run national network
  • Russkoye Radio - major private network, music-based

News agencies/internet

  • 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