Today we spoke with Margarita Simonyan, the Editor-in-Chief of government-funded Russia Today. She took the position a few years ago when she was only 25-years-old. “I think [my youth] does give me a different perspective on the world,” she says. “People my age or younger are more globally oriented.”
The goal of Russia Today as an English-language international news organization is, as she puts it, “to bring the word about Russia to the world and to make the world more familiar with what this country is all about.”
In addition to the network itself, she explains that Russia Today offers a free service to deliver broadcast-quality footage to other news organizations. Right now, she says her subscribers include ABC News, CNN, and FOX. RT reporters also appear on other networks when major events are happening, like the recent explosions in Moscow. “I would switch on CNN, ABC, NBC and see our little green logo on the monitors,” she said. “And they kept calling and asking our correspondents to go on live.”
Our took place the same day ABC’s George Stephanopoulos anchored “GMA” from St. Petersburg. We asked for her take on differences between the American and Russian TV news medias.
“American tv news is much more sophisticated,” she tells us. “I think that American TV networks, it looks like, they invest a lot into news. When something big happens and you see those broadcasts obviously done from a helicopter — or helicopters — this is something we haven’t been doing yet in Russia because the TV companies are investing a lot into shows.”
Of course, there are certain stigmas about news organizations in Russia and Simonyan tells us that there are a lot of misconceptions about the country’s media.
“When you read Western press you probably get a feeling that all Russian press is censored, there’s no freedom at all, we can’t say whatever, which is absolutely, absolutely, completely untrue,” she tells us.
“There is state run television in Russia, which is more loyal to the state as it always is with state television in any country. We have private owned networks, some of them are oppositional. We have thousands of regional networks that in their regions are more watched than the so-called federal stations…some of them are just so critical, they make a point of being critical, like Fox News to Obama administration.”
She says that the recent coverage of the Moscow bombings highlighted the different viewpoints among these networks, some of which espoused very unpopular positions sympathetic to the perpetrators.
Simonyan’s network is government-funded and she says she’s often asked if that means her coverage has a pro-government slant. She urges people to watch it first and decide for themselves, pointing out that many international news organizations have government funding. She adds, “Being government funded does not necessarily mean being biased just like being privately funded does not necessarily mean being independent.”
Ultimately, she says the goal of her organization is to help other countries realize “we are more or less the same, we just speak different languages. When we have common problems, we try to solve them in very similar ways. Our culture, our attitude towards lots of things is very similar.”