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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08MOSCOW564 2008-02-29 10:36 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Moscow

DE RUEHMO #0564/01 0601036
P 291036Z FEB 08

E.O. 12958: N/A 
1.(SBU) Summary:  The Russian media's bias towards 
Kremlin-supported presidential candidate Dmitriy Medvedev 
came as no surprise in the campaign season, and the sheer 
lack of suspense may have caused media outlets to do only the 
minimal required coverage of the campaign.  In January and 
February, government-owned or controlled national television 
stations highlighted Medvedev's activities, with very little 
attention to the other three registered candidates. 
Newspapers and internet discussions offered a more diverse 
range of commentary and coverage, but given the small 
audience, had a limited impact on the overall election 
climate.  The government has also employed resources to 
promote the election turnout, papering public transportation 
with posters, and pressuring billboard companies to swap 
profitable advertisements for public service announcements 
reminding citizens to "vote for Russia's future."  End 
2.(U) Although Medvedev dominated the airtime allotted to 
presidential candidates - in most cases receiving more play 
that his three rivals combined -- Putin remained central in 
prime time news coverage. A Center for Journalism in Extreme 
Situations (CJES) summary of broadcast media showed that in 
January, Medvedev received up to fifty percent of news time 
on four of the five main channels.  In February, when the 
official presidential campaign began, Putin regained center 
stage, commanding an average 55 percent of news time on 
state-owned Channel One, Rossiya, and TV Centre and 
Gazprom-owned NTV while Medvedev received from 25 to 40 
percent on the same channels.  The other candidates received 
minimal attention from state-owned outlets, garnering 3-6 
percent each. 
3.(SBU) Only privately-owned REN TV gave any significant 
airtime to other candidates, but its small market share meant 
that most Russian TV viewers watched the Kremlin-controlled 
campaign coverage.  In February, REN-TV dedicated 30 percent 
of prime time news to Putin, 20 percent each to Medvedev, 
Communist party candidate Gennadiy Zyuganov, and 
Liberal-Democratic party candidate Vladimir Zhirinovksiy, and 
6 percent to Democratic Party candidate Andrey Bogdanov.  In 
January, according to CJES, NTV allocated the bulk of its 
campaign coverage to Kasyanov's efforts to get on the ballot. 
 In contrast, Channel One, Rossiya and NTV primarily 
criticized Kasyanov.  Zyuganov and outside groups have 
publicly complained to the Central Election Committee and 
Moscow City Courts that the state-controlled media was not 
following Russian law requiring equal coverage for all 
candidates, but the complaints have been dismissed. 
4.(U) The state-controlled media crafted a stately image of 
Medvedev, whether visiting a three-child family to 
congratulate their efforts to increase the Russian population 
or showing Russian support for Serbia in Belgrade.  At the 
same time, Channel One featured Zyuganov visiting a honey 
expo and described him as a "keen bee-keeper."  Another 
Channel One news program highlighted Liberal- Democratic 
party candidate Vladimir Zhirinovksiy's visit to a Moscow 
construction site, learning to plaster a wall, while 
onlookers muffled giggles.  Bogdanov was largely absent from 
the main airwaves, garnering less that 2 percent of news 
time, and visible on television mainly during the early 
morning debates in which Medvedev declined to participate. 
5.(SBU) Due to much smaller circulation and waning 
readership, compared to broadcast media, the print press had 
less direct pressure from the Kremlin than during the 
parliamentary elections, and more space to offer independent 
and often critical analysis of the campaign.  Underscoring 
the conventional wisdom that the election was a formality to 
Medvedev's presidency, commentary from publications as 
diverse as the liberal Kommersant to the official government 
daily Rossiiskaya Gazeta highlighted the lack of real 
competition among the candidates, including unequal access to 
the airwaves (in a few cases drawing unfavorable comparisons 
to the U.S. primaries).  Very little personal criticism of 
Medvedev the candidate appeared, however, and by 
mid-February, most publications reduced their "campaign" 
coverage to a minimum and shifted their focus towards 
speculation on post-election power divisions. 
6.(SBU) Transparency International Russia reported that 
although Medvedev received half the national print press 
mentions for presidential candidates from December 1, 2007 to 
MOSCOW 00000564  002 OF 002 
February 15, 2008 (296 versus 248 for Zhirinovskiy 237 for 
Zyuganov, 169 for Kasyanov and 140 for Bogdanov),  President 
Putin still won more press attention, with 862 mentions in 
the same period.  Print publications gave each candidate a 
fair amount of editorial space, at the same time displaying 
editorial slants in line with their ownership.  Rossiiskaya 
Gazeta told us they were instructed not to publish any 
interviews or op-eds from U.S government officials until 
after March 2.  Kommersant, while one of the few publications &#x000A
;to criticize the Kremlin and Medvedev, was also suspected of 
toning down its language because of owner Alisher Usmanov's 
ties to Gazprom.  Quipped a Kommersant foreign correspondent, 
"There is no doubt that (Editor-in-Chief Andrey) Vasilyev has 
been talking to the Kremlin on a regular basis throughout the 
presidential campaign." 
Radio and Mass Media 
7.(SBU) Like the print press, radio stations' limited and 
fragmented audience allowed them to air opposition voices, 
within limits.  The hourly news segments of both 
government-owned national radio networks - Radio Mayak and 
Radio Rossii - extensively mentioned Medvedev in both his 
official capacity as First Deputy Prime Minister and as a 
presidential candidate.  Editorially independent Ekho Moskvy 
continued to offer a wide range of campaign coverage, on the 
process and the candidates.  However, as Editor-in-Chief 
Aleksey Venediktov noted in an interview, "We are a showcase 
for the West" so the Kremlin can prove media freedom exists 
in Russia. 
8. (SBU) While attention to the campaign dwindled to 
perfunctory coverage of candidates and renewed focus on 
President Putin, a drive around Moscow left no doubt that a 
presidential election was still to come.  Striking posters 
stating "Presidential Elections March 2" superimposed on the 
Russian flag were found on signs, billboards, metro cars and 
stations and even adorned public transportation tickets. 
Large billboards featured well-known politicians, including a 
casually-dressed Moscow Mayor Luzhkov, with the caption "I'll 
vote."  An executive with Russia's largest outdoor 
advertising firm freely admitted that the government 
pressured his partners in Moscow and other cities to bump 
advertising in favor of public service announcements 
imploring citizens to vote.  "We smile and say, 'Of course!' 
and only hope we can negotiate a little about the amount of 
space they will take." 
 "We seem to forget that March 2 is still ahead of us." 
--------------------------------------------- ----------- 
9.(SBU) Comment: Although the media environment was not 
fundamentally more restrictive than the run-up to the 
parliamentary elections in December 2007, coverage and 
interest decreased - even the outrage and attention to 
government influence in the media dwindled noticeably.  The 
presumed inevitability of Medvedev's victory may have led all 
but the state-run outlets to turn their attention to less 
predictable topics and the state-media channels simply 
fulfilled their responsibility by covering the Kremlin's 
candidate. Alternative voices were available, particularly in 
the print press, but their impact was minimal. As one Ekho 
Moskvy editor noted, media coverage of Medvedev as the next 
president became so routine, we seem to forget that March 2 
is still ahead of us." 


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