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6th Jun 2020

Putin to spend €643mn on media this year

  • 'All in all, it's a solid amount', Putin said (Photo: Kelly)

Russia is to spend €643 million this year on subsidising media, amid EU efforts to strike back at “disinformation” on the Ukraine war.

President Vladimir Putin revealed the sum at a meeting of the All-Russia People’s Front, a loyalist think tank, in Moscow on Tuesday (28 April).

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"The funds that were envisaged for supporting media last year, I think, for the whole country, amounted to about 36 billion rubles [€643mn], which is a big sum of money," he said, according to Tass, a state-owned news agency.

"As far as I know, this year the amount which is allocated to support media should be on the level of last year. So, all in all, it’s a solid amount”.

"It should be clear how the money is spent. This information should be as transparent as possible”, he added.

The revelation comes amid EU and US concern at what EU leaders, in March, called “Russia's ongoing disinformation campaign” on the Ukraine conflict and on anti-Western propaganda more broadly.

Its flagship broadcaster, RT, alone employs 2,000 people in 16 countries, and airs shows in English, French, German, and Spanish.

EU leaders also asked the EU foreign service to create a new communications cell and to file an action plan in time for the June summit.

It published, on Monday, a US State Department-type fact sheet on Russian fallacies about Ukraine to coincide with a top-level EU meeting in Kiev.

There is more going on behind the scenes.

At a seminar in Brussels on Monday, organised by Estonia, communications directors from three of the main EU institutions said they plan to work more with social media and to use less jargon to promote EU integration in former Soviet satellite states.

"We are the message. What we’ve managed to build as the European Union", one of the officials said.

A second one noted: "This is not counter-propaganda ... It should be about telling the good stories that we have to tell about the good work we do in our neighbouring countries".

A group of 10 EU members, including the Baltic states, Nordic states, Germany, the Netherlands and the UK, also wants to see EU funding for independent Russian-language broadcasters.

But for its part, the commission is to spend just €10 million on promoting the “Eastern Partnership” policy in the current budget cycle.

The EU foreign service has no extra money for its new communications team, which will comprise between two to five people, one of them from the UK, whose salaries are to be paid by their countries of origin.

Meanwhile, Davit Alaverdyan, the editor-in-chief of Mediamax, an online news publisher in Armenia said the EU should be more flexible in the way it awards grants.

“The money doesn’t go to the people with the best ideas on how to make the EU more popular, but the ones who employ the most specialists in project grant applications”, he told EUobserver in Yerevan last week.

Alaverdyan, who is also a scholar of propaganda at Yerevan University, said Armenian TV and the four Russian TV stations which broadcast in Armenia cover Ukraine from Russia’s point of view only.

He noted the Russian message doesn’t have a monopoly on the internet and doesn’t always go down well, however.

Dmitry Kiselev, a prominent Russian anchorman who is on an EU blacklist, was also blacklisted in Armenia last year after a speech denigrating its language.

With Russian TV and NGOs often branding EU states as being exceedingly gay-friendly, Alaverdyan added that Armenians also rely on the diaspora for independent information: “This whole Russian idea of ‘gay Europe’ … anyone who has relatives in France, they know it’s not true”.

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