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Media policy-making: analogue to digital

As a theoretical area within Russian media studies, media policy differs from international approaches in a number of ways, as ‘media policy’ is not a widely used Russian term or concept. Russian political discourse prefers the term ‘state information policy’, thus establishing it within a conceptual framework as a state-driven policy, primarily with regard to the role of the state in the regulation of the production and distribution of, primarily, journalistic content.

The legacy media in Russia continue to be influenced by the basic forms of national regulation covering audio-visual media, ownership restriction, copyright protection and preventing harmful content for audiences (Rickhter,2007; Pankeyev, 2019). Moreover, the regulation of content production and editorial processes within traditional media companies also involves ‘self-regulatory’ mechanisms, from codes of journalistic ethics and editorial charters to informal rules and culturally and historically defined taboos (Pankeyev, 2019; Roudakova, 2017).The widening digitalization of the Russian media has stimulated the emergence of new policy approaches with a particular focus on the universal access to Internet, demands for no regulation of the networked media, for open source and the appeal for a usergenerated content media model (Gureyeva and Samorodova, 2019).

Over the last two decades, Russian media policy has developed through various phases. In the early stages, Russian media policy was concentrated on protecting freedom of speech and was seen by the society and journalism professionals as developing a legal framework for a ‘free press’, especially because it was a part of the socially broader transformation process aimed to replace the Soviet legal system (Rickhter, 2007). For the media system in general there was a clear need to change Communist, top-down, ideologically based media regulation to a more liberal regulatory and policy framework in line with the new democratic values of the media field (Nordenstreng et al., 2002).

The philosophy of the new market-driven economy defined media policy in the 1990s, with an emphasis on the de-politicization of the media resulting in media deregulation. In addition, in relation to professional regulation, the reconceptualization of journalism with regard to the principle of the freedom of the press (and the complete abolition of the censorship) became a dominant process. This was also supported by the mainstream neoliberal approaches of the Russian media market (Ivanitsky, 2010). In the 1990s and 2000s the changing economic structures of the Russian media industry through privatization and commercial advertising-based business models called for state withdrawal from the media ownership and media market (Rantanen, 2002; Shchepilova, 2010).

In the 2000s, Russian media policy-making embraced multiple pressures and diverse actors in a response to institutionalization of emerging social institutions and processes. For instance, media industry regulatory frameworks - professional journalistic, corporate managerial, have set new editorial norms and a number of professional practices with the focus on the social responsibilities and accountability ofjournalism (Anikina, 2014).

Many internal contradictions, mostly consequences of the post-Soviet ‘transitional period’, also influenced media regulation, including a growing misunderstanding between journalists, politicians and other segments of society about the scope and limits of the freedom of press and journalism autonomy, resulting in a high degree of audience distrust of the media (Anikina, 2015; Paasti and Ramaprasad, 2017).This reflected differences in views between media professionals and audiences, varying priorities of social and cultural agendas, leading to a demand for a balance between standards of global news reporting and Russian journalistic cultures, including questions about professionalism (Anikina, 2015). Added to these misgivings were concerns about an emerging Russian advertising market, with newly-privatized media businesses building sometimes questionable strategies to attract investment (Ivanitsky, 2010; Vartanova et al., 2017). The introduction of financial support to weak regional and local media, mostly print, contradicted a deregulation policy at the national level in order to maintain the local press as PR-instruments of the local government agencies (Shchepilova and Burianova, 2014).

Other complicating factors included new information and communication developments, digitalization and the rise of mobile technology'. The digital telecom environment became the focus for the rise of a neoliberal philosophy in the Russian economy, regardless of the crucial role of the state in controlling the core technological infrastructure (especially fixed telephone lines, analogue transmission ofTV signal and satellites). This role remained important as in previous periods, but in the 2000s digital production and distribution were generally paid little attention by state legislators. With little regulation of digital content distribution for two decades, film piracy through widely privatized cable networks led to the creation of a huge pirate content market with little regard for copyright, a trend which has accelerated in the Internet age. Another big concern for regulators was the growing availability of harmful content, including access for underage groups to pornographic and violent material. As a consequence of the developments during the first decade of the century, several ‘agents of change’ within media policy-making can be identified, showing that the process was being driven by particular logics - of the state, industry, professional community and public ‘agents of change’.

 
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