CNN is making a huge fuss about pulling their international broadcasting from the Russian market, even going as far as to blame it on “recent changes in Russian media legislation”. This is confusing, since the law in question was only passed less than a month ago and doesn’t come into effect for over two years. The Western media’s linkage between CNN’s decision and Russia’s new law is disingenuous and has more to do with Russia bashing than it does with reporting the facts.
Spur of the Moment or Predetermined Decision?
The timing of CNN’s decision is certainly curious, since it’s astounding that such a radical decision could be made in the course of under a month. Big moves of this nature are usually considered for quite some time and aren’t made in haste, since once they’re made, they’re usually difficult to undo. There isn’t even a rush to comply with the legislation in the first place, which goes into effect on January 1st, 2017, over two years from now. So what could the real reason be behind CNN’s dramatic announcement to leave by year’s end?
Unpopularity, fair and simple, and it’s CNN’s own fault. The company peddles a narrative that bashes Russia, its leader, and its interests at almost every available opportunity, and the Russian public just isn’t receptive to that type of mudslinging. Back in July, CNN published an opinion piece by a contributor who fear mongered the following:
“Is Putin evil? His actions certainly are, if by evil we understand behavior that willfully, consciously and purposely destroys human life. Perhaps we can call his actions undeniably evil and Putin himself "evil enough." Evil enough for what? Evil enough for condemnation by people of good will.”
Not a smart move in a country where support for the President is at an all-time high and patriotism is the zeitgeist. It’s no wonder that Russians tuned out from the station, and the consequent drop in advertising, as the Vedomosti daily suggested, might be why the company finally pulled the plug on its broadcasting.
Time For More Russia Bashing
The timing of CNN’s announcement is also suspect, since it comes on the same day that RIA Novosti and Voice of Russia rebranded as Sputnik. This led to a predictable reaction of Russia bashing from all sectors of the Western media, with the most common slur being that the outlet is “propaganda”. Then, CNN’s announcement came out and sent the hysteria into overdrive. Even former Ambassador Michael McFault couldn’t resist, taking to Twitter to falsely state the following:
That’s not true, since CNN wasn’t “kicked out” from Russia, but that didn’t stop him from going even further:
I remember the day when you could first watch CNN in the USSR. Now the clocks turn backward. So short-sided & anti-modern & sign of fear.— Michael McFaul (@McFaul) 10 ноября 2014
Remember, compliance with the law doesn’t go into effect until January 1st, 2017, so if CNN really left the market so early because of it, then that would be the “short-sided” decision, wouldn’t it? It looks more like they’re throwing a planned pity party to create a non-existent political scandal, especially when looking at the near-uniform Western media reaction and McFaul’s false and provocative tweets about it.
What the Law Actually Says
The supposedly “controversial” law in question is actually an amendment to an existing one which drops the ceiling for foreign media ownership from 50% to 20%. This means that foreign citizens and Russians with dual citizenship can only own 20% of the total share for a mass media company. This is defined as TV and radio stations broadcasting to half of the country’s population or print media that issue one million or more copies.
It doesn’t mean censorship or kicking anything out of the country. In fact, there’s actually a viable workaround that’s being exploited by Voice of America and the BBC’s Russian Service, and that’s internet broadcasting. It’s the future of media, and it means that CNN could still theoretically broadcast to the millions of Russians that have access to the internet. The company’s not even closing their Moscow Bureau, so reporting from the country will obviously continue, and their website is absolutely unaffected.
So what has changed then? Not a thing, except that CNN cut its television losses and the Western media jumped right back on their favorite Russia-bashing bandwagon.