Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Shift from Analogue to Digital TV Will Hurt Regions and Republics Most

Paul Goble

            Staunton, December 25 – Next month, Russian television will start the concluding phase of shifting from analogue television broadcasting to digital, a move that is going to deprive people in many Russian regions of local broadcast news and many non-Russians of yet another possibility to watch programs in their own languages.

            In its survey of policy changes that Moscow has made in 2018 that are going to cast a shadow on ethnic and regional relations in 2019, the editors of the Nazaccent portal include many actions that everyone would expect – Putin’s approach to languages – but they also include the shift of TV from analogue to digital (nazaccent.ru/content/28936-itogi-2018.html).

            Under the terms of the government program, Russian residents “will be able to receive free 20 channels over the air digitally “but there is a danger,” Nazaccent says, “that residents of small cities, small regional centers and rural territories will in general be left without any television broadcasting at all.”

            That danger has attracted some attention, but a broader threat had not.  According to the portal, “regional TV channels have not been included in the package of free channels. As a result, residents of national republics and districts will be deprived of the chance to water television broadcast in their national languages.”

            That in turn will mean that they will “lost yet another chance to use their native languages in daily life.”  Given the importance of television in the lives of the residents of the Russian Federation, this may have an even more negative impact on the use of non-Russian languages than even Putin’s school language reforms.

            At the very least, this move is likely to spark controversy in non-Russian republics and in Russian regions in the coming weeks, a controversy likely to be all the more serious because most people in either the Russian government or the Russian or analytic community haven’t seen it coming.

            And this case serves as yet another reminder that almost all government policies have an impact on ethnicity even if ostensibly they have nothing to do with it, yet another reason why nationality issues are so important and why no one agency can ever be powerful enough to regulate all of them. 

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