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Russian newspapers, magazines, television and radio broadcasters, online news media, and other types of media outlets are the focus of topics in this category, whether private or state-owned.

More than 83,000 registered media outlets are operating in Russia, publishing or broadcasting in more than a hundred languages. In addition, there are other media outlets based outside of Russia, but targeting a Russian audience. Any of these may be appropriate for inclusion in this category. Russia’s constitution guarantees freedom of the press, but media outlets within the country must be licensed and registered with the government, and restrictive legislation and a political judicial system makes it difficult for an independent media, and self-censorship is common.

During the autocratic Russian Empire, freedom of the press was not permitted. Journalism was discouraged, while official press releases were issues through government agencies. The first privately owned daily newspaper was the Daily Bee, published with government approval from 1825 to 1860. Emperor Alexander II allowed a degree of freedom for the press in the 1860s, when he allowed about sixty daily newspapers to publish. Particularly popular in the late 1800s were a series of short-lived satirical publications that made fun of the the tsarist regime, quickly becoming targets of government censorship. Various left-wing revolutionary parties also surreptitiously published underground newspapers. Between 1904 and 1917, the Saint Petersburg Telegraph Agency circulated factual information supplied by the government, largely to support its industrialization program. In 1917, the telegraph agency was taken over by the new Bolshevik government, and later became TASS.

Until the mid-1800s, 95% of the Russian population was illiterate, so the country’s early magazines were circulated largely among the clergy and merchants. By the 1860s, literacy had increased but most magazines published light reading, although some were devoted to literature.

Leading up to the Bolshevik Revolution, Pravda began publishing in 1912, serving as a propaganda tool for Lenin and the Bolsheviks. Suppressed by the government in 1914, it became a party-owned publication under the Bolshevik government from 1917 to 1991. While Pravda was the voice of the Communist Party, Izvestia was the voice of the Communist government. During the Soviet era, the media was state-owned and tightly controlled, and speeches were generally printed in their entirety, so there was little need for journalists to summarize or interpret the text. The foreign media had scant access to anyone other than official spokespeople.

With the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, an independent media began operating in Russia, but journalists continue to be punished for challenging the official view. By 2012, the Russian government owned all six of the country’s television networks, two radio networks, fourteen newspapers, and three-fifths of the thousands of local newspapers and periodicals. In 2014, laws were passed to extend the government’s control over the Internet. The owners of Russian websites with more than three thousand daily visits are required to register with the government as a media outlet, imposing on blogs and other sites the same regulations that are imposed on newspapers, including a ban on anonymous authorship and legal responsibility for user comments.

The largest news agencies in Russia are ITAR-TASS, RIA Novosti, and Interfax, the latter being a private news agency, while the first two are state-owned. While newspaper readership is declining in many countries, newspapers are the most popular form of media in Russia, with local newspapers more popular than national ones. Although companies with ties to the Russian government have acquired many of the country’s most influential newspapers, private news outlets are currently operating in Russia, although most of they avoid taking potentially controversial positions.

There are three main radio stations in Russia, the largest being Radio Russia, followed by Radio Mayak and Radio Yunost. Most Russian radio stations offer a music format, but they offer some news and other reports. Television is widely popular in Russia, with nearly 75% of the country’s population watching television routinely. While there are more than three hundred television channels, only three have nationwide coverage: First Channel, Rossiya, and NTV, of which the first two are state-owned. Regional television is becoming increasingly popular, with audiences who rely mostly on news provided by regional outlets. Beginning in 2005, RT produces its content in multiple languages and broadcasts to several countries, largely reaching an international audience.

Regulatory bodies tasked with regulating the media are largely subordinate to the Ministry of Telecommunications and Mass Communications.



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