Staunton, October 14 – In advance of the presidential elections, the Kremlin has put in place a mechanism to gather, evaluate and disseminate through state-controlled media news about positive developments inside Russia lest the current depressed state of Russian public opinion continues.
Petr Kozlov of BBC’s Russian Service reports that the Presidential Administration has taken this step because officials there “want to improve the social self-assessments” of Russian citizens lest the media’s focus on bad news overwhelms them and leads them to blame the incumbent regime (bbc.com/russian/features-41601374).
Recently, Sergey Kiriyenko, the first deputy head of the Presidential Administration, held a meeting with federal officials and asked them to “systematize the collection and offering of information which could be used to demonstrate that life is improving,” according to a Kremlin source.
Subsequently, according to an official in the office of the governor of Krasnodar kray, Kozlov says, the Kremlin has made the same demand to regional officials and to companies as well.
But he continues by observing that “positive news is only part of the information strategy developed by the authorities in advance of the presidential elections.” It is also working on a digital strategy that is likely to be carried out by the Mail.ru group. And some Kremlin supporters, if not the PA itself, plan for 100 regional channels in the Telegram network as well.
Three developments appear behind these moves, Kozlov suggests. First, polls show that Russians are increasingly unhappy and ever more prepared to make demands of the regime. Second, the structure of the media means that even outlets that want to boost Putin often feature bad news to compete with others because bad news always gets more coverage than good.
And third, while everyone agrees that Putin will win re-election if he runs, his administration wants to make sure that the election is as comfortable for him as possible, something that will be all the more likely if Russians have been given a new diet of news suggesting that things are getting better and better in this best of all possible worlds.
The Kremlin is generally pleased with the messages involved in coverage about international affairs. “There,” one Moscow observer says, “everything is good, everyone understands that there are problems in Ukraine, that we are winning in Syria and that Trump is a strange man.” But domestically, there are problems.
Not only are more problems there reported widely, observers in Moscow say; but the style of Russian media in general and of Russian television in particular makes it unlikely that the regime will be able to turn things around at least in any way that will have the impact the Kremlin expects.