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Why All Autocracies Need State-Run Media

Published: February 7, 2014 (Issue # 1796)


The unprecedented price tag of the Sochi Winter Olympics — an estimated $51 billion — far outstrips that of any past Winter Games. The Sochi Games' bloated costs are widely understood to be a result of massive graft that is ending up in the hands of a small Kremlin-connected circle.

This sort of high-profile corruption should receive serious journalistic scrutiny, but in Putin's Russia state-run media avoid coverage of how these enormous resources have vanished. For most of the Russian public, this issue and others, such as the Kremlin's recent $15 billion aid package to Ukraine taken out of the National Reserve Fund, are not a subject of discussion because they do not receive critical attention in the mass media.

Despite the Internet, the Kremlin is finding new ways to use its media to stay in power.

The state-run media treatment of the Sochi Games' huge levels of corruption speaks to the ongoing ability of the authorities to adapt their media tactics and prevent independent news and analysis from reaching much of the population.

Related: Putin Shuts State News Agency

Despite the rise of new media outlets that are generally far more diverse and competitive than they used to be, authoritarian regimes are finding alarmingly effective ways to use media to help themselves stay in power. Media outlets controlled formally or informally by the state have become necessary to the durability of undemocratic governments around the world like Russia. The messages that such media pump out — and the public apathy that they promote — help to keep regime elites from defecting and prevent alternative power centers from rising within society.

The media outlets in question may be owned and run by the state, or they may be nominally private but, in reality, under government control. Most authoritarian regimes employ both their own state media and private media to do their bidding.

Related: Razing Russia’s Fourth Estate

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Sunday, Oct. 26


Zenit St. Petersburg returns home for the first time in nearly a month as they host Mordovia Saransk in a Russian Premier League game. Currently at the top of the league thanks to their undefeated start to the season, the northern club hopes to extend the gap between them and second-place CSKA Moscow and win the title for the first time in three years. Tickets are available at the stadium box office or on the club’s website.



Monday, Oct. 27


Today marks the end of the art exhibit “Neophobia” at the Erarta Museum. Artists Alexey Semichov and Andrei Kuzmin took a neo-modernist approach to represent the array of fears that are ever-present throughout our lives. Tickets are 200 rubles ($4.90).



Tuesday, Oct. 28


The Domina Prestige St. Petersburg hotel plays host to SPIBA’s Marketing and Communications Committee’s round table discussion on “Government Relations Practices in Russia” this morning. The discussion starts at 9:30 a.m. and participation must be confirmed by Oct. 24.



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