Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 90

Not only do the media moguls differ in their aims, they also diverge in the degree to which they try to impose a unified structure and style on their media holdings. The media outlets controlled by Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov, or those owned by Gazprom or LUKoil, are run in a different way from Media-Most, with less focus on making money and winning readers.

Because of this diversity, Dr. Nivat suggested that further restructuring and concentration of media ownership is likely. No radical changes should be expected, however, until after the 2000 presidential election, because the media elite is fearful that the election of a new outsider as president could upset their cozy position.

Another factor which will propel change is the unfolding struggle for control of regional media as the conglomerates seek to expand beyond Moscow. Most of the audience, not to forget advertising revenue, are now being served by regional media. The share of national newspapers (about twenty dailies in Moscow alone) in total circulation has shrunk from 70 percent in 1990 to 30 percent in 1997. Similarly, national television stations are fighting to build networks among the 600 regional TV stations.

Many Russian journalists bemoan the rise of mogul-controlled media. They are nostalgic for the days of perestroika, when journalists spoke for the nation. The new media merely serve as a vehicle for political intrigue (slinging mud against opponents) and do not promote a rational public debate of political issues.

Nivat pointed out that the commercialization of the media has led to a tripling (or more) in typical salaries at the leading papers. One Izvestia journalist made $1 million from selling his 0.7 percent share in the newspaper to LUKoil in 1997. Journalists have thus benefited personally from the changes, and should not portray themselves as victims of the bankers’ wars. Also, the higher wages have largely eliminated the pernicious practice of journalists taking money to write individual stories, which came to prevail in the early 1990s.

Now, at least, it is clear which magnate controls which paper. At a national level, there is a limited pluralism of opinions, though opposition voices are largely excluded. The real problems come at local level, where regional bosses often strive to squeeze out dissenting opinion, Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov being a prime example.