07MOSCOW2129, MEDIA AGENCIES MERGE AHEAD OF ELECTIONS AND

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07MOSCOW2129 2007-05-08 15:56 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Moscow

VZCZCXRO9038
RR RUEHDBU RUEHLN RUEHPOD RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHMO #2129/01 1281556
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 081556Z MAY 07
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0057
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE
RUEHXD/MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEHLN/AMCONSUL ST PETERSBURG 4064
RUEHYG/AMCONSUL YEKATERINBURG 2430
RUEHVK/AMCONSUL VLADIVOSTOK 2107

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 MOSCOW 002129 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SENSITIVE 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PGOV KDEM PHUM PINR RS
SUBJECT: MEDIA AGENCIES MERGE AHEAD OF ELECTIONS AND 
SWITCHOVER TO DIGITAL 
 
 
MOSCOW 00002129  001.2 OF 002 
 
 
 1. (SBU)  Summary:  Against the background of an 
increasingly controlled media climate, the GOR has merged the 
agencies Rosokhrankultur and Rossvyaznadzor into one "super" 
agency in an effort to consolidate regulatory control of the 
media and information technology.  It will not be known for 
at least a few months what the new agency's mandate will be, 
but the new head of the agency, Boris Boyarskov, is well and 
favorably known to the Embassy.  Some Embassy contacts 
speculate that the merger was undertaken to increase control 
over media content, including the Internet, in advance of the 
upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections.  Russia's 
imminent switchover to digital broadcasting might be the real 
impetus for the merger, however.  End summary. 
 
------------------ 
New "Super" Agency 
------------------ 
 
2. (U)  On March 12, President Putin decreed the merger of 
Rosokhrankultur, which issues and revokes broadcasting 
licenses, and Rossvyaznadzor, which issues technical licenses 
for data transmission, as part of an effort to consolidate 
regulatory control over media and information technology. 
Head of Rosokhrankultur Boris Boyarskov was put in charge of 
the new "super" agency on March 26. 
 
3. (SBU)  Boyarskov chaired the working group that assessed 
the viability of merging the two agencies and told us in a 
March 22 meeting that the new agency's functions would be 
made clearer by mid-June via amendments to the Law on Media, 
supplemented by GOR regulations specifying its powers. No 
proposed amendments have been discussed as of mid-May. 
 
----------------------------- 
Initial Reaction Apprehensive 
----------------------------- 
 
4. (SBU)  Reaction to the merger has been low key, but 
apprehensive to date.  Foundation for Information Policy 
Development Director Yelena Kolesnik attributed the merger to 
the GOR's desire to centralize control over all media 
content, although she admitted that she had no evidence to 
support her suspicions.  In an April 26 meeting, Director of 
the Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations Oleg Panfilov 
reserved judgment, predicting that little would be known 
before September.  Still, he feared the merger was a Kremlin 
attempt to ensure maximum control over the media in the 
election season. 
 
5. (SBU)  Director of the National Research Center on 
Television and Radio Aleksey Samokhvalov told us April 9 that 
in light of the upcoming parliamentary and presidential 
elections, the GOR may be contemplating overtly stronger 
controls over media content.  He said, however that the 
agency's main task would be to oversee Russia's impending 
switchover to digital broadcasting, which is scheduled to 
occur in 2008.  The newly-merged agency will have a federally 
supported budget with estimates ranging USD 4 - 6 billion for 
managing the transition, as well as the power to allot a 
substantially increased number of licenses. 
 
----------------------------------- 
Suspicions of GOR Intentions Remain 
----------------------------------- 
 
6. (SBU)  In a March 16 article, Reuters wrote that the 
merger had sparked fears of a "bid to extend tight publishing 
controls to the relatively free Web."  Saying that Russia is 
"not China," interlocutors were in agreement that it would be 
"impossible" for the GOR to control the Internet should the 
newly-merged agency attempt it.  Kolesnik and Panfilov felt 
that pressure nevertheless would be brought to bear. 
Panfilov was specifically concerned that the independent 
radio station Ekho Moskvy and the newspaper Novaya Gazeta 
(late journalist Anna Politkovskaya's employer) might be 
singled out for their more independent coverage, but 
Boyarskov was at pains to reassure us of his support for 
freedom of press and journalists' rights. 
 
------- 
Comment 
------- 
 
7. (SBU)  It is not surprising that media watchers here are 
inclined to suspect the worst of the merger, since they 
subscribe to Freedom House's view, as published May 3 in its 
2007 report on freedom of the press, that GOR efforts are 
 
MOSCOW 00002129  002.2 OF 002 
 
 
directed at "(further marginalizing) independent media 
voices, punctuated by plans to regulate the Internet."  The 
GOR's attention has been increasingly focused on the need to 
avoid any surprises during the upcoming elections and greater 
control over media content would be a logical task for the 
new agency to undertake.  Post, however, has yet to see any 
concrete steps in that direction and is persuaded that 
Russia's switchover to digital is an equally important factor 
in divining the intent of the merger.  Boyarskov himself is a 
very modest figure and has been very helpful to the Embassy 
in our ear
lier work with him on the IPR account. 
 
BURNS

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