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MOSCOW, December 10. /ITAR-TASS/. The RIA Novosti news agency and Voice of Russia radio broadcaster will be liquidated at the beginning of the next year. Their assets will be transferred to a new Federal State Unitary Enterprise (FSUE) — the International News Agency Rossiya Segodnya (Russia Today). Russian President Vladimir Putin signed the corresponding decree on Monday. This media outlet will cover the “state policy of the Russian Federation and public life in the Russian Federation” abroad. Journalist Dmitry Kiselyov has been appointed Director General of the new agency.
The main reason for this step is budget funds saving, chief of the Russian presidential administration Sergei Ivanov said. Another federal official has given the same explanation to the Vedomosti newspaper. Russia’s Finance Ministry intends to significantly cut subsidies to the media, according to a draft federal budget for 2014-2016 that has been submitted to the State Duma lower house of parliament: the sum of 50 billion rubles ($1.52 billion) projected for 2016 is by one-third less than for this year.
The budget subsidies of RIA Novosti will now go to Rossiya Segodnya, as no additional funding is planned for the new company, a Vedomosti source says. However, the new FSUE will save on domestic news coverage, reducing this activity.
Rossiya Segodnya will work primarily for Western audiences, according to two federal officials responsible for the regulation of the media, and the other government agency — Itar-Tass, will fully focus on domestic information and thus the unnecessary competition between the two state-run agencies will stop. Funds for the coverage of the Sochi Olympics events and all obligations of RIA Novosti as the host news agency of the Olympics to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) will go to Rossiya Segodnya, and a relative agreement has already been reached with the IOC, a federal official says.
The Russia Today TV channel, despite the similarity of the names, will so far not be included in the new agency, says a Vedomosti source, “although everybody hopes that that these media outlets will closely co-operate.” Russia Today’s editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan has confirmed that the channel will continue to operate independently.
A source of the Kommersant daily in the presidential administration says that the RIA Novosti reform had been prepared and discussed long ago. “We have two state news agencies the maintenance of which required considerable resources, and their functions are largely duplicated,” said the newspaper’s source. “The new agency will focus on the coverage of events in the country in an international context, and Itar-Tass will place more emphasis on the country’s internal audience.”
However, another source of Kommersant notes that “it will be difficult to draw a clear dividing line between internal and external information.”
Many experts think that such actions are ineffective, the Nezavisimaya Gazeta newspaper writes. But there is another point of view, which is based, in particular, on the growing popularity of the Russia Today channel in the United States in recent months. At least the Russian authorities have recognized as successful the activity of the channel led by Margarita Simonyan. In recent weeks, an intensive public relations campaign has informed the Russian public that many Americans are grateful to the TV channel for its independent news broadcasting. As it has turned out, it is from the Russia Today newsreels that Americans get the most balanced view of the world developments. It may be assumed that the Russian president has been informed about this success.
A senior government source of the Moskovsky Komsomolets newspaper commented on the changes as follows: “The authorities should appoint to these positions those who support the government and not those who are against it. Dmitry Kiselyov is a political appointment. Kiselyov does not hide his political views.” The Kremlin expects Dmitry Kiselyov to repeat the success of Margarita Simonyan. It is not accidentally that the name of the newly established agency is translated into English as Russia Today.
Itar-Tass is not responsible for the material quoted in these press reviews