Thursday, January 22, 2015

RT television: An e-mail exchange with Mrs. Yelena Osipova-Stocker, Ph.D. candidate at American University

Below an informal e-mail exchange with Mrs. Yelena Osipova-Stocker regarding RT, the Russian government-funded television program. (Mrs. Osipova-Stocker kindly authorized that these shared thoughts be posted on this blog):

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Hello Yelena -- I recently had an opportunity to watch -- which I’ve not had for years -- RT on cable -- while being, of all places, in Las Vegas, at the Venetian hotel (I don’t have cable at home).

I was struck by two things about RT: (A) True, it has an anti-U.S. agenda, but it's not as bad as universally condemned by Western media; in fact, some of its programs are downright interesting. (B) It seems to have little coverage of Russia itself.

(B) is what struck me the most from a "propaganda" perspective. Could it be that the bright jeunesse dorée at RT -- I suspect many of them are the sons/daughters of the Soviet upper bourgeoisie -- realize that the less said about the motherland under Putin, the better? Would appreciate your thoughts on this matter.

Best, John


Hello John!

Yes, your observations are very correct. They can't really talk about what's going on in Russia not only because that's “better,” but because their jobs depend on it. Yes, some of their stars are close relatives of Russia's (and former Soviet) higher-ups, but they comprise a very small number of the hundreds that RT employs. Mostly, they are young aspiring reporters that can't get other jobs. Plus RT pays quite well, from what I understand, including in Russia itself. But this employment comes with strings attached, of course. And many know it or realize it along the way.

RT's main objective now is not to cover Russia -- unless it's a terrorist attack, Donbass bombings, or the Olympics in Sochi. Instead, the objective is to undercut the US and/or the West, writ more largely. The target audience is either the uneducated downtrodden or the well-educated, strongly liberal middle class --- not very different from the Soviet approach, it seems.

Now, you also probably watched RT America mostly, which is different from RT (global) and recently, RT UK (you can't always tell -- because they don't make it clear, but the programs change intermittently). It's more narrowly targeted to the audience here, hence another layer of filtering.

All the best,


As for the promised links, here are a few from a chapter I wrote recently:

GAIS, H. 2014. Why RT ❤’s Ferguson [Online]. Medium.

GESSEN, M. 2014. Mouthpieces for the Kremlin’s propaganda channel aren’t brave [Online]. The Washington Post.

MACKEY, R. 2014. Russia, Iran and Egypt Heckle U.S. About Tactics in Ferguson [Online]. The New York Times.

MILLER, C. 2014. Russian state media seizes propaganda opportunity in Ferguson [Online].

SMITH, P. 2014. Everything You Need To Know About Russia Today UK [Online]. BuzzFeed.


JB note: See also Mrs. Yelena Osipova-Stockers’s comments on RT in her illuminating blog, Global Chaos.

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