Propastop has always been interested in the design and management of the Kremlin propaganda apparatus. For example, the Russian media often talks only about one topic at a time, while other important news issues are put aside. Coordination and overall control concern both foreign news and Russian national issues. For example, when talking about stories concerning Estonia, the Bronze soldier incident media attacks or the lost rocket occurrence of last year come to mind.
It is easy to say that the Russian media is „controlled by the Kremlin“. However, what exactly does this control mean, who gives the orders, who receives them and how are the guidelines communicated?
Recently, several articles have appeared that cast a light on the internal structure of Putin’s media machine. The Russian independent magazine, Projekt and several other Western sources wrote about this. This overview is a summary of these texts. Links to the original stories are listed at the end of this posting.
Aleksei Gromov is the „managing director „of the propaganda machine
The article shows that Aleksei Gromov, the deputy head (under Anton Vaino) of President Vladimir Putin’s administration is also the head of the Russian propaganda machine. Born in 1960, Gromov has been associated with Russia’s power group for the last quarter of a century and has been working in his current position for the last 11 years, making him one of the longest serving members of Putin’s closest associates. Gromov has a very good relationship with Putin and according to some sources; he even belongs to Putin’s inner circle. Through his son he is also associated with Russia’s power elite; business oligarchs. You can read about his origin and hobbies in the links at the end of this posting.
It is Gromov who distributes orders and guidelines for publication of topics in the Russian controlled media. No other officials do this, attempts to direct media without notifying Gromov lead to having an unfavourable status or the Kremlin even applying sanctions.
Weekly meetings to guide the media
The main instrument of Gromov’s media control is a weekly meeting with media leaders. Meetings usually take place on Tuesdays at the Presidential Administration’s premises in Staraja Square, Moscow.
In addition, representatives from all major Russian media outlets (both publicly and at least on paper, privately owned) attend the meetings. – either executives, deputy directors or chief editors. The top officials from the Kremlin Press Service, the State Duma, important government agencies and ministries also take part in the meetings with Gromov.
The article in Projekt brought out the following as participants at the meetings:
– Pervõi TV channel: Kirill Kleimenov, program information director
– Rossija TV channel: Jevgeni Bekasov, Rossija 24 editor-in -chief
– REN TV and 5TV TV channels, usually represented by ine person
– NTV and TVC TV channels: representatives are not named
– RT and Sputnik: Margarita Simonjan, editor-in-chief
– Ministry of Foreign Affairs: Maria Zaharova, editor-in-chief
– Kremlin officials: Sergei Novikov, head of Putin’s social projects. It can be assumed that the Kremlin spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov would also participate.
How are orders sent?
At the meeting, Gromov’s officials have prepared instructions for topics to be handled over the next week and how to spin them. In addition, Gromov gives direct verbal orders. Based on sources, his phrase „There is no need to focus any attention on this matter“ means the topic or news on it is vetoed.
Restrictions on the coverage of prohibited topics are written with „continuous double lines“. To ignore them would cause major misfortune to the press. There are examples of how the media’s „wrong“ approach has led to angry phone calls from Gromov. An EuvsDisinfo story describes what threats were received by a publication that dared explore a forbidden topic.
Other control methods
Aleksei Gromov is characterized as a person who does not love modern technology. In this respect, he is similar to President Putin, who rarely uses the internet. An overview of what is happening in the media comes to him through daily memos, called “daidžestiteks”. These memos are prepared by the Gromov led agency.
Quarterly meetings are also used as a method of channeling media, where Gromov meets with press representatives of the power structures. Alexander Smirnov, head of the officials under Gromov, communicates weekly with the army, the police and the office of prosecutions
The articles referred to do not specify how Gromov receives guidance from Putin’s inner circle or where or how it is decided to deal with media topics.
Russia’s independent publication Projekt on Aleksei Gromov and the work of the Kremlin propaganda machine.
EUvsDisinfo summary of Projekt’s story.
The Guardian’s article on Putin’s control over the media.
The Moscow Times’ article on the same topic.
The Meduza article on Alexei Gromov.
Aleksei Gromov’s photo in the website Kremlin.ru
The Russian Presidential Administration Building in Staraya Square, Moscow.
Photo: NVO/ Vikipeedia/ CC