Medvedev Considers Sale of State Media Holdings

Very interesting speculation from William Dunkerley in The Moscow Times that Medvedev may make moves to sell off state media holdings – which would be a tremendous boon to freedom of the press.  There are, of course, a number of other obstacles standing in the way before Russian media can become truly independent, no matter who owns them, but this sounds like a good start.

“It’s a waste of money,” Kremlin economic adviser Arkady Dvorkovich said of today’s governmental media ownership. That’s quite an understatement. All the media shenanigans haven’t fooled Russian consumers. Surveys show that they know they’re being fed a phony bill of goods. So the government has been spending money to lie to people who know they’re being lied to. That’s quite a waste.

Dvorkovich went on to say, “It will not do us any good if [the media outlets] fall into the hands of dishonest investors.” But keeping all of the media above board may not be realistic. The important thing is to get at least one consumer-centric media outlet in each major media market. Consumers will recognize who’s there to serve their interests, and who’s not. Market forces will put the phonies in their place. On top of that, the Russian Media Fund, a private sector Russian and American initiative that I support, has a ready-made plan to diminish the role of paid-for news in Russian society. Medvedev should check it out.

And while a government media pullout can’t happen overnight, time is of the essence. Ambitious plans are afoot for modernization, anti-corruption, forward-looking projects like Skolkovo, and new social programs. Their chances of success would be enhanced if Russia were to have a normalized, consumer-centric media industry. But for now, the media is the nation’s most conspicuously corrupt economic sector. Shouldn’t that propel Medvedev’s media initiative to the level of a categorical imperative?