Friday, November 4, 2016

Extreme Diversity of Views on the Internet Limits Its Impact on Russians, Shtepa Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, November 4 – Many Russian commentators and Western experts assume that the Internet will gradually replace television as the primary source of news and information in Russia, but they fail to recognize, Vadim Shtepa says, that the biggest obstacle to that happening is the very diversity of views available online.

            By habit, Russians want a single and authoritative source of news and information and consequently they turn to state-controlled television to get it, even when they have access to the Internet and can go online whenever they want (

            That may change over time, the Russian regionalist now living in Estonian exile suggests; but those who assume that the Internet’s diversity gives it an advantage over Russian state television with its single point of view are almost certainly making a mistake when it comes to the Russian information market place.

            Shtepa’s insight comes in the course of his discussion as to whether Estonia or other countries that Moscow has directed its propaganda-laden television at should ban it outright, limit its access to the airwaves when possible, or create an alternative television platform to attract Russian speakers away from Moscow’s mouthpieces.

            Any such moves are invariably denounced by Moscow as “’a struggle against freedom of speech,’” Shtepa says. But as he points out, many researchers have concluded that “Russian television today has little relationship to freedom of information.  It is itself a qualitatively different phenomenon – an instrument of propaganda” which delivers the Kremlin line.

            Consequently, European countries are justified in taking steps to limit or even block Kremlin television propaganda or to come up with alternative means. That won’t be easy; but for those Russian speakers who want a single authoritative line, it will be especially difficult to do so – and the Internet isn’t the panacea many expect.

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