[lg policy] While Georgia is banning Russian songs, they're airing a Russian-language TV program

Harold Schiffman haroldfs at GMAIL.COM
Sun Jan 30 21:09:20 UTC 2011

Georgia Offers Russian-Language Alternative To Kremlin TV

[Thanks to Wm. Fierman for this, too! (HS)]

Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili takes part in a live phone-in
TV show of state-funded Kanal PIK in Tbilisi on January 25.
Last updated (GMT/UTC): 25.01.2011 18:02

Russian-speakers in the Caucasus, Europe, Russia, and beyond now have
a new place to turn for news. The Georgia-based Kanal PIK ("Pervy
Informatsionny Kavkazsky," or First Caucasus News) has made its
television debut. For six hours a night, the channel will broadcast
news, documentaries, and cultural programs about the Caucasus and the
wider world to audiences who until now have had only Kremlin-dominated
stations to turn to for their Russian-language news.

Kanal PIK director Robert Parsons, a former BBC Moscow correspondent
and former director of RFE/RL's Georgian Service, says the station
seeks to fill an information gap when it comes to news about the North
and South Caucasus. "By and large, particularly if you talk about
Russian television, the coverage of Georgia is almost uniformly
negative. And that's certainly one of the things that we hope to
correct because it distorts the image of this country,” Parsons says.

"We're not targeting Russia or the Russian government. We're not
seeking to pick battles with anybody. What we see our aim as being is
to satisfy a thirst that people have for honest information."

Not The First Try

This is not the first attempt by Georgia to set up a Russian-language
channel. A previous project, First Caucasian, was launched last year
but almost immediately lost its satellite signal after Russia's
Gazprom energy giant bought out nearly all of the satellite's
broadcast space.

This time, Parsons says he anticipates no technical snafus, and that
satellite transmissions of Kanal PIK will be available throughout
Russia, Western Europe, the North and South Caucasus, Turkey, Iran,
and Israel. The station will also run a live feed on its website and
hopes to eventually offer cable coverage to Russian-speaking
populations in the United States and elsewhere. If it succeeds, Kanal
PIK will represent the first major Russian-language alternative in a
media market dominated by Russian television channels.

Moscow has actively spread its own global influence with the Russia
Today network, which broadcasts the Kremlin's view of Russia worldwide
in Russian, English, Spanish, and Arabic. Kanal PIK's reach may
initially be more modest. But Parsons says the station has virtually
no competition when it comes to focusing on areas of the world that
are frequently ignored by mainstream media in Russia and the West.

North Caucasus Could Make News

One such area is the North Caucasus, which might occasionally make
headline news when tied to terrorist acts in the rest of Russia -- but
where Parsons says day-to-day violence goes largely ignored. "On a
daily basis, we'll be covering issues about what goes on inside
Chechnya, what goes on in the North Caucasus -- the kidnappings, the
disappearances -- all those things which happen on a daily basis which
are hardly reported at all in either the Russian or the Western
media," he says.

Kanal PIK receives its funding, including a 7 million-euro ($10
million) startup budget, from the Georgian government, and will
effectively operate as the country's third public broadcaster. The
deal came under criticism from some media observers in Georgia, who
said the deal was struck last summer without the benefit of a proper

But defenders have praised the channel's management, which includes a
clutch of prominent foreign journalists, including Parsons and David
Chater, formerly of Sky News and Al-Jazeera. They say Kanal PIK
represents a rare opportunity to counter Moscow-dominated news and
bring professional, Western-style journalism to the Caucasus. For
Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, who has repeatedly found
himself on the losing end of Moscow's propaganda machine, the prospect
of funding an alternative Russian-language broadcaster may seem like
public funds well spent, as well as an appealing platform.

Saakashvili was the first guest on Kanal PIK's maiden broadcast on
January 25, answering questions from the Georgian public. In that
appearance, Saakashvili blasted what he called the Russian
"occupation" of his country in a reference to Georgia's Moscow-backed
rebel regions, Abkhazia and South Ossetia. He compared Russia to a
"crocodile" that was ready to "swallow" his country.

Parsons has denied Kanal PIK will be "just another propaganda
channel." But Zviad Koridze, a prominent Georgian journalist and media
analyst, says the station will need to be careful to give the
impression that it is working for the sake of news in the Caucasus,
and not just interests of the Georgian government.

“Any television station whose function has a propagandistic character
might have difficulty maintaining some kind of media standards, even
the standards which Robert Parsons [and] David Chater were so devoted
to preserving during the course of their own professional careers,”
Koridze says.

“This channel does have its own propagandistic function. Look at the
first broadcast -- it will be the Georgian president speaking to the
people and taking calls."

Kanal PIK will be transmitted by satellite Hot Bird @ E13'
(transponder: 65, frequency: 12015 MHz, polarization: horizontal (H),
S/R: 27500, FEC:3/4), and through www.pik.tv online.



 Harold F. Schiffman

Professor Emeritus of
 Dravidian Linguistics and Culture
Dept. of South Asia Studies
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305

Phone:  (215) 898-7475
Fax:  (215) 573-2138

Email:  haroldfs at gmail.com


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