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Kremlin Reportedly Considers Overhauling State TV to Compete Better Against the Internet

Alexander Zemlianichenko / AP

The Putin administration knows it might have a TV problem, anonymous sources close to the Kremlin told the news agency RBC this week. In an article on Wednesday that cites multiple unnamed sources reportedly with ties to the Russian presidency, RBC said the Kremlin is considering an overhaul of the country’s television news, which experts apparently fear has lost the interest of many Russians.

RBC’s article echoes another unconfirmed report from February, when the website Znak.com claimed that the Kremlin commissioned an independent study of Russian network television, which determined that news coverage is overly confrontational and too focused on foreign events.

“There needs to be greater discussion of ordinary people’s prospects, the state of the economy, and the domestic situation, so there’s not such a divide between the nightly news and what people really care about,” one source told RBC.

Another source identified as a former official in the federal government claimed that the Kremlin is growing concerned that more people are turning to online social media to learn about news that actually interests them, instead of watching television. “The Kremlin is exploring possible ways to bring these two worlds closer together,” the source told RBC.

The Putin administration reportedly has concerns, however, about attempting reforms in network television. For one thing, expanding domestic coverage would demand far more self-censorship.

“Criticizing [Ukrainian President] Poroshenko is safe,” a source told RBC, “but discussing domestic policy raises questions about who is to blame in various cases.”

Some experts said they also worry that today’s top Russian TV pundits aren’t even capable of pivoting to domestic coverage. “There’s nothing you can do with people like this,” political analyst Nikolai Mironov told RBC. “If you tell them to think up something new, it just causes them cognitive dissonance.”

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