Friday, January 10, 2014

Voice of Russia to be Liquidated

Russia Today news agency to get all RIA Novosti and Voice of Russia funding

It didn't take long for the Putin's government to wind up the old RIA Novosti New Agency and the Voice of Russia radio network (what was once called Radio Moscow World Service). The budget of 83 million dollars has been transferred to the newly created news agency called Russia Today. BBC Monitoring in Caversham caught this official announcement below this afternoon. 

Russia's newly-created state news agency Rossiya Segodnya [Russia Today] will get the funds that were to be allocated by the government to RIA Novosti news agency and Voice of Russia radio, RIA Novosti reported on 10 January quoting amendments to the 2014-2016 budget law published on a government website.

RIA Novosti was to get R2.68bn [83m dollars] in 2014.

The report said that "the implementation of the amendments will not require the allocation of additional funds and will not change the main characteristics of the federal budget for 2014-2016".

RIA Novosti and Voice of Russia will be liquidated.

Source: RIA Novosti news agency, Moscow, in Russian 1423 gmt 10 Jan 14

What I find strange is that several hours later there is still no mention of it on the Voice of Russia website. So was it good news or bad news late on a Friday afternoon? The new state agency gets all the money. I wonder if it has the same mandate to use the legacy resources and distribution systems. In other words, is this really the end of external service radio from the Russian capital? Is it a reboot or a swift end? The word "liquidation" sounds sinister (though meaning could be lost in translation). And what of the "other" Russia Today (better known as Question More!  

Richard Berry on the RadioStudies list in the UK, notes that Russia has quietly switched off nearly all of its long-wave transmitters, ending almost nine decades of broadcasting - as cost finally catches up on the medium. At 1am on 9 January 2014, state-run Radio Rossii wound up its broadcast as usual with the national anthem. There was no mention that long-wave transmissions were coming to an end, and the following day listeners found they had to rely on local FM broadcasts and the internet to hear the station. The only state radio station with truly national coverage, Radio Rossii can be compared to BBC Radio 4 with its mix of news, drama and educational programmes.

Long-wave suited Russian broadcasters because a single transmitter could reach a wide area at all times of day and night. But they are expensive, and as most listeners have begun listening on FM, or through cable, satellite and the internet, the authorities decided to bring the service to an end..

Long-wave radio played a role in the Cold War, with the United States building a powerful transmitter near Munich and broadcasting its Russian service on the same frequency as Moscow's programmes. Listeners in parts of the Soviet Union found state radio drowned out by the Voice of America .

Now only one LW transmitter remains in the country, broadcasting Radio Kavkaz to the North Caucasus region on a limited schedule.

The BBC says that although it is planning to end its use of long-wave radio at some time in the future, there is no specific date for the closure of its Radio 4 transmissions on 198 kHz, much loved by listeners of the shipping forecast and Test Match Special.

All this talk about liquidation didn't stop Vasily Strelnikov (former Media Network contributor) as well as host on Radio Moscow World Service and Voice of Russia sending a 2014 greeting from his dacha west of Moscow.

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