Is Russia cracking down on foreign media? The BBC was effectively kicked out of the country today.
From a story in the Guardian:
The BBC World Service has lost its last FM radio outlet in Russia today, adding further substance to claims of a clampdown on foreign media by the country’s authorities.
Russian station Bolshoye Radio today notified the BBC World Service that it plans to stop transmission of BBC programming in Russian as of this afternoon.
Bolshoye Radio was due to air BBC content at 5pm but was ordered by its owner, the financial group Finam, to pull the shows or risk being taken off air altogether.
Here’s a Reporters Without Borders press release:
MONTREAL, Aug. 20 /CNW Telbec/ – Reporters Without Borders is dismayed by
the Russian government’s decision, announced today, to eliminate the BBC from
the FM waveband in Russia.
“There is absolutely no justification, either political or technical, for
this censorship,” the press freedom organisation said. “Is Russia taking the
lead from China or Zimbabwe, where the BBC is jammed? We hope a rapid solution
will be found to this problem and that the BBC will soon be available on FM
The broadcasting of the BBC’s Russian-language programming on FM ended
today. The British broadcaster’s last Russian partner, Bolshoye Radio, has had
to terminate the relationship on the insistence of the Russian authorities.
Finam, the group that owns the station, said it had been told by regulators
that its contract did not allow it to retransmit programmes produced by other
BBC Global News director Richard Sambrook said: “We are extremely
disappointed that listeners to Bolshoye Radio will be unable to listen to our
impartial and independent news and information programming in the high quality
audibility of FM.”
Sambrook called on the Russian authorities to respect the licensing
accord with Bolshoye Radio, claiming that it allowed for a fifth of its
programming to be foreign-produced. Meanwhile, Finam spokesman Igor
Ermachenkov told the Associated Press: “It’s no secret that the BBC was
established as a broadcaster of foreign propaganda.”
Relations between Russia and the United Kingdom have worsened
considerably since the start of an investigation into the death of former KGB
officer Alexandre Litvinenko from poisoning in London last November.
Moscow-based Radio Arsenal stopped retransmitting the BBC’s programming
on FM at the end of 2006, while St. Petersburg-based Radio Leningrad followed
suit in early 2007. The BBC’s Russian-language programmes can still be heard
on short wave and on the Internet.