The role of talk shows on pro-Kremlin TV


Out of the approximately one billion USD the Kremlin allocates annually for the media it controls, around one third finances foreign language outputs, such as Sputnik and Russia Today (RT). The remaining two thirds are spent on ensuring that the Kremlin’s political line reaches Russia’s 145 million strong population. Obviously, this generous subsidy can allow the state-controlled TV stations to develop and refine those formats that can strengthen the impact of pro-Kremlin narratives on public opinion. Among different television genres, one stands out: the talk show.

At a first glance, the talk show format on pro-Kremlin TV can seem to provide audiences access to a diversity of viewpoints. Indeed, as a rule, a small number of “dissidents”, e.g. an opposition activist, a Ukrainian or even a “token American” will be invited into the studio, but these will always be massively outnumbered and yelled at by the majority of talk show participants, who hold pro-Kremlin views, and who are traditionally backed both by the studio audience and, crucially, the host. The role of the dissenting voice is thereby reduced to being a scapegoat, or even an instrument in legitimising mobbing: The limited diversity of opinions becomes a fig leaf that can keep up the appearance of at least some sort of public debate; in reality, it becomes a model of a society where dissenters and foreigners are, and should be, treated with hostility.

But apart from the systematic attacks on views that do not coincide with the Kremlin’s, talk shows also serve a different, and no less strategically important function, namely to spread incorrect information – a practice which inscribes itself in the Kremlin’s disinformation campaign. The Disinformation Review, which we publish every week, (sign up here) seeks to keep track of the disinformation relayed in the talk shows. Members of our network report cases where incorrect information appears in the show – both when voiced by a participant or by the host, as everything which is said affects public opinion, while it at the same time reflects the views the Kremlin has permitted to be expressed in the system of guidelines known as “temniki” – no viewpoint voiced can be considered “accidental”.

Below we have selected a number of examples, all of which have appeared during the past two months, either on state-controlled TV – Pervy Kanal, Rossiya-1 – or on privately owned, but no less Kremlin-loyal nationwide NTV. Among the many topics reported in our review, we decided to pick those which concern Ukraine. With the Kremlin’s behaviour in Ukraine having resulted in condemnation and sanctions from the international community, the Ukraine narrative remains a very high, if not the highest priority in the Kremlin’s media narrative, at least judging from the scope of attention Ukraine gets in the talk shows. At the same time, after having read through these examples, one might wonder to which degree this kind of language on state-controlled television can be said to be of support to the process of creating peace in Eastern Ukraine.

  • Ukraine is destroying people based on their ethnic origin: “Vremya Pokazhet” Pervyi Kanal, 26 May 2017 (watch from 1:16:36)
  • NATO organised the Ukrainian revolution to establish a new military base in Crimea. “Mesto Vstrechi” NTV, 25 May 2017 (watch from 1:20:44)
  • Petro Poroshenko plans to kill several million people in Donbas. Angela Merkel is his accomplice, because she is silent about this plan: “Vremya Pokazhet”, Pervy kanal 22 May 2017 (watch from 1:34:46)
  • The EU has provided Ukraine with a visa-free regime in order to “milk” it; taking its forests, fertile land and other resources: “Mesto Vstrechi”, NTV, 12 May 2017 (watch from 44:23)
  • Nazism is taking revenge in Ukraine and Russia is the main target of it: “Pervaya Studiya”, Pervy Kanal, 10 May 2017 (watch from 1:09:47)
  • The Ukrainian people are under EU occupation: “Vremya Pokazhet”, Pervy Kanal, 11 May 2017 (watch from 10:47)
  • A new Ukrainian nation is being created now with only one reason for its existence – the hatred for Russia: “Vremya Pokazhet”, Pervy Kanal 11 May 2017 (watch from 1:14:12)
  • After the introduction of a visa-free regime with Ukraine, tens of thousands of neo-Nazis of Ukraine will pour into Europe: “Mesto Vstrechi”, NTV, 12 May 2017 (watch from 42:31)
  • The street protests in Ukraine during Victory Day on 9 May showed that in Ukraine there is a Nazi government and a basically anti-fascist people: “Vecher s Vladimirom Solovyovym”, Rossiya-1, 10 May 2017 (watch from 49:44)
  • Russophobia is the nature of the current Ukrainian state: “Vremya Pokazhet”, Pervy Kanal 28 April 2017(watch from 1:08:13)
  • Russia does not participate in the military conflict in Donbass: “Vremya Pokazhet”, Pervy Kanal, 17 April 2017 (watch from 15:26)
  • Ukraine is a ‘colonial empire’ that has captured Russian, Polish, Hungarian and Romanian territories: “Pervaya Studiya”, Pervy Kanal 27 April 2017 (watch from 50:05)
  • Just before the annexation of Crimea, Ukraine had started a secret nuclear project with the help of Germany and France in order to create its own nuclear weapons – building a factory close to Chernobyl reprocessing spent nuclear fuel for the weapon plutonium: 18 April 2017, “Vremya Pokazhet, Pervy Kanal (watch from 11:37)
  • The authorities of Ukraine have moved from the policy of genocide to the cleansing of ethnic Russians in the region of Donbass: ‘Vremya Pokazhet’, Pervy Kanal’, 17 April 2017 (27:29)
  • The US is designing military threats – the war in Ukraine, Daesh and a conflict with North Korea – in order to take Russia and China: “Vremya Pokazhet”, Pervy Kanal, 12 April 2017 (watch from 02:59)
  • The authorities of Ukraine are carrying out a programme to ban the Russian language, which was developed by (Nazi propagandist) Goebbels: “Vremya Pokazhet”, Pervyi Kanal, 10 April (watch from 57:36)
  • The Ukrainian state cannot exist without hatred towards Russia, which helps the Ukrainians to isolate themselves from Moscow: “Vremya pokazhet”, Pervy Kanal, 3 April 2017 (watch from 1:13:13)

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Cases in the EUvsDisinfo database focus on messages in the international information space that are identified as providing a partial, distorted, or false depiction of reality and spread key pro-Kremlin messages. This does not necessarily imply, however, that a given outlet is linked to the Kremlin or editorially pro-Kremlin, or that it has intentionally sought to disinform. EUvsDisinfo publications do not represent an official EU position, as the information and opinions expressed are based on media reporting and analysis of the East Stratcom Task Force.

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