World Media 2006: Russia

The nation has a wealth of natural resources but its political and economic outlook is uncertain, its media infrastructure is slow to evolve and journalists can be vulnerable to attack by criminals.

No country in the world can rival Russia's capacity to lurch effortlessly from tragedy to comedy by way of penurious ruin. More than a decade after the collapse of the Soviet Union, no-one is really sure whether the new Russia will emerge as a hugely prosperous oil-rich economy with an assured future, or will stagger towards bankruptcy, brought down by corruption and internal strife.

The rouble, after all, has already fallen through the floor once in the past decade. So it is impossible to surmise the country's economic prospects - and that's before we even begin to reflect on its huge geographic and demographic diversity. After all, Russia stretches across a landmass that spans 11 time zones, from the Baltic Sea to the Pacific Ocean.

The political outlook is no clearer, although it is slightly easier to summarise. President Vladimir Putin has been praised in some quarters for the uncompromising way he has gone about tackling the underlying economic problems but critics say he rides roughshod over democratic freedoms to get what he wants. They also loathe his hardline stance against the Chechnyan separatists and the methods he uses to suppress dissent.

Opposition to Putin tends to focus around the oligarchs, who were given control of the country's vast energy resources by Putin's predecessor, Boris Yeltsin. Putin wants the resources back; they want Putin deposed. And, for good or ill, Russia's newspapers and television stations are in the front line.

And this is no laughing matter. In 2004, Paul Klebnikov, the editor of Forbes Russia, was assassinated after his magazine published a series of articles criticising a section of Russia's business elite. In the same year, Anna Politkovskaya, a journalist fiercely opposed to Putin's policy in Chechnya, was poisoned.

Many multinationals continue to plan on the basis that Russia will become a vastly important consumer market but the media infrastructure is proving slow to evolve.

All of which may go some way to explain why outdoor - a vehicle conveniently unencumbered by editorial content - is the country's sexiest advertising medium. The most recent big entrant was Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation, which has amassed a $100 million war chest to fund outdoor media acquisitions in Russia.

ADVERTISING EXPENDITURE USdollars million at current prices. All years based on US$1=Rouble 28. *Estimated **Includes magazines Total TV Newspapers Magazines Radio 1994 700 300 180 100 30 1995 800 300 220 130 40 1996 1,050 400 280 170 60 1997 1,400 550 350 250 70 1998 1,300 480 350 220 80 1999 573 190 190 70 30 2000 826 270 240 100 45 2001 1,336 510 310 160 70 2002 2,210 920 495 260 115 2003 2,890 1,240 585 350 155 2004 3,855 1,700 730 470 200 2005 4,890 2,261 **1,394 - 258 2006* 6,141 2,930 **1,603 - 325 2007* 7,574 3,750 **1,779 - 406 2008* 9,217 4,687 **1,939 - 504 Total Outdoor Online Cinema 1994 700 90 0 0 1995 800 110 0 0 1996 1,050 140 0 0 1997 1,400 180 0 0 1998 1,300 170 0 0 1999 573 92 1 0 2000 826 165 3 3 2001 1,336 275 6 5 2002 2,210 400 11 9 2003 2,890 530 18 12 2004 3,855 710 30 15 2005 4,890 909 50 18 2006* 6,141 1,181 80 22 2007* 7,574 1,489 125 25 2008* 9,217 1,863 195 29 Adspend notes 1) After discounts. 2) Includes agency commission. 3) Excludes production costs. FACTFILE Highest circulating titles - Newspaper: Trud (national daily,1,580,000 copies) - Business magazine: Business Zhurnal (fortnightly, 143,000 copies) - Consumer magazine: 7 Dney (TV listings weekly, 1,030,000 copies) Top TV shows - Most watched TV programme (2004): President Putin's new year address - Best new TV format: Diversant (popular home-grown mini series) Major measurement tools - Circulation: The National Circulation Service - Readership: TNS Gallup Media - TV viewing: TNS Main media owners - Newspapers: Komsomolskaya Pravda - Magazines: Independent Media - Television: RTR (public), VGTRK

THE LOWDOWN

Media topic du jour: Growing threats of political interference.

Reigning media guru and why: Konstantin Ernst, the boss of the country's leading TV network, First Chanelk, has acquired an international status as a producer and has even sold projects to the US.

Media mogul to be seen dining with: Boris Berezovsky, a renegade oligarch and former associate of President Yeltsin, who fled to London to escape the wrath of President Putin. He is regarded by many as the opposition leader in exile and has built newspaper interests in support of his political ambitions. Best to meet him outside Moscow.

Car to drive: Cherokee Jeep.

Phone to carry: Pantech PG-1400.

Whatever you do, don't say: I believe Putin's going soft.

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