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Russian TV grossly distorts reporting on Ukraine

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Dec. 10, 2013, 11:30 a.m. | Ukraine — by Olga Rudenko

Rossiya 1 anchorman Dmitry Kiselyov speaks of Euromaidan in a news program on Dec. 8.
© Rossiya 1 TV channel

Olga Rudenko

On Dec. 8 Artyom Kol was reporting live from the rally on Independence Square for state-owned Russian TV station Rossiya 24, when he was interrupted by a young man trying to give him a spoof Oscar statuette. 

“I want to give this Oscar to your TV station as a reward for the rubbish and the lies you report,” the man said, while Kol tried to push him out of the spot.

Finally, after a small argument, Kol accepted the Oscar.

The intruder was Vitalii Sediuk, himself a reporter for local 1+1 channel, and his weird performance was an angry reaction to the way some Russian media, Rossiya 24 in particular, was portraying protests in Ukraine. Sediuk says he was angered by the way the "News of the Week" program on another state-owned Russian channel Rossiya 1 distorted what was actually happening at ground zero of the protests.

Aired on Dec. 1, the program featured an eight-minute long live report by the journalist, with no interviews and almost no additional footage included. The reporter said the situation in Kyiv is pure “anarchy,” adding that the streets were dangerous, especially for Russians, and said that the protests seem to be orchestrated by Western countries.

Other reports by Russian media had the same message. NTV – Russia’s highest rated channel with 13.2 percent audience share, according to TNS media research – told viewers that “if popular singers and sportsmen support the protest, it means there is somebody behind it,” referring to the presence of popular singer Ruslana and boxer-turned-politician Vitaly Klitschko on the Maidan.

Rossiya 24’s website – whose channel has 1.4 percent audience share, according to TNS media research – focused on violence, with headlines like “Protesters Crash the Police With Tractor."

Russian state-owned Perviy Canal (Channel First) – with 12.5 percent audience share – reported that only “several hundred people” showed up at the rally on Dec. 8, when there verifiably were hundreds of thousands.

A study by the Russian Public Opinion foundation in March found that 46 percent of Russians name television their favorite pastime. There is an estimated 53 million television households, according to Presnario International, with an estimated 100 million TV sets in use. The combined audience of channels Rossiya 1, Rossiya 24, NTV and Channel First comes to around 43 percent of the whole TV audience in Russia, according to daily ratings at www.advertology.ru.

Sediuk says that Russian reporters that he saw in Kyiv don’t use microphones with TV station logos. He recognized the Rossiya 24 reporter from the small logo on his jacket. When Sediuk left him alone, Kol said to the audience, "as you see, people on Maidan have sort of a censorship, they demand that we make only positive reports."

Protesters around him were heard chanting, "Shame!"

Otar Dovzhenko, a TV analyst and professor at Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv, says the message of Russian media is directed to the Russian audience only, as the number of people watching Russian TV in Ukraine is not so big and also, Ukrainians have alternative sources of information.

"Russian media can't hide the protests in Ukraine, so they try to bring them down, make them look undesirable. Discrediting the protests in Ukraine is very important for the regime of President Vladimir Putin. The Orange Revolution of 2004 gave strong inspiration to the opposition in Russia," said Dovzhenko.

When hinting on the Western inception of the protest movement, media try to exclude the fact that it was sparked by the Ukrainians' annoyance with the government, to not give a certain example to the audience in Russia, says Dovzhenko.

Sediuk said he accidentally met Kol soon after their first encounter in a restaurant near the Maidan. Kol gave the Oscar back. Fortunately for Sediuk, who spent Hr 200 on the statuette and planned to get a refund from the souvenirs shop.

“When I told him they (Russian journalists) shouldn’t misrepresent the events in Ukraine, he simply said ‘We have our own point of view,’” Sediuk says. “But I think that when the reporter twists the actual events it’s not the issue of the point of view at all."

Kyiv Post editor Olga Rudenko can be reached at rudenko@kyivpost.com

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