ROAR: Parties to share access to one TV channel in each region

President Dmitry Medvedev has signed a law that guarantees equal access of political parties to TV channels in Russian regions.

The legislation, adopted by the parliament at the end of September, supplements the law on general principles of organization of legislative and executive regional bodies. Now these organs are obliged to guarantee equal access of parties to regional TV channels and radio stations.

The matter concerns the political parties that are represented in regional legislative bodies. The new law obliges regional state bodies to ensure equal coverage of the parties’ activities in local electronic media.

Regional legislative bodies will have to adopt their own laws to guarantee that parties have equal access. The coverage in local media is controlled by local electoral commissions.

In accordance with the new initiative, one state-run TV channel and one radio station will be chosen for the goal. This, observers note, may be not enough to ensure equal coverage as other state-run and private channels may establish their own rules in covering parties’ activities.

Some regional leaders of Russian parties have said it will be difficult to fulfill the requirements of the new law in practice. One of the reasons is the fact that “as a rule, a representative of the ruling party is appointed as the editor-in-chief [of a state-run channel],” said Aleksandr Makarevich, the head of Murmansk regional branch of the opposition Fair Russia party.

In his case, “any convenient occasion is used for shooting a TV report about the party’s activities, especially in prime time,” he told Regnum news agency.

Opposition parties, on the other hand, “have to do everything they can to appear on television,” he noted. “As a rule, their activities are not covered in prime time.”

Another shortcoming of the law is that it concerns only electronic mass media, the politician believes. In many municipalities, newspapers and other print media are very popular and have considerable circulations, he noted.

The State Duma started to consider the presidential bill equating parties’ chances for access to regional media in March, 2010. The draft legislation developed Medvedev’s initiatives concerning media coverage of parties’ activities in the federal media.

Since September 2009, parties represented in the parliament have had equal access to state-run Rossiya One and Rossiya 24 TV channels.

The faction of the opposition Communist party supported the idea at the time, but criticized the way the parties’ activities were covered by these federal channels. Nobody had controlled “the quality of information,” the representatives of the faction said.

However, all the factions supported the bill. The representatives of the Liberal Democratic Party noted that the law may well work at the regional level, Kommersant daily said.

Mikhail Emelyanov of the Fair Russia proposed that the equal access to all registered parties should be ensured, adding that “there are only seven such parties in Russia.”

Just as the Communists often complain that the media are covering the activities of the ruling United Russia more often, the representatives of that party disagree.

During the current campaign for elections in regional legislative bodies, the opposition parties already use the equal access to local media, believes Valery Galchenko, the head of United Russia’s regional department.

The politician made it clear that opposition forces owed equal access to regional media to United Russia which had voted for the amendments.

“The opposition has chosen the tactics of scandals,” Galchenko was quoted by the party’s website as saying. He believes the equal access to electronic media “gives their electoral strategies large proportions.”

Sergey Borisov,
Russian Opinion and Analysis Review, RT