During Putin’s eight years in the Kremlin, the Russian presidency and the Russian television system underwent a radical and interrelated change. In the wake of the 2000 election, analysts asked, ‘will Putin be able to consolidate power?’ (Fish 2001; McFaul 2000c). Four years later, after Putin was re-elected president with 71.3 per cent of the popular vote, the same analysts declared the president the only authority in Russia (Fish 2005; McFaul et al . 2004). As the power of the presidency grew during Putin’s tenure in office, the power of other institutions in the decision-making process correspondingly waned, including that of the television media. During Putin’s presidency, there was not only a change in the role of television in the political system, but increased state control over television. This control was instrumental to the success of Putin’s wider systemic changes that have redefined the Russian polity. I have argued throughout this book that Putin sought to increase state control over television as part of a larger programme aimed at strengthening the power of the state. During the 1990s, the power of the Russian state was emasculated by oligarchic elites who deployed the media assets under their control to undermine government initiatives that threatened their interests. The Russian news media has come to act as a forum for elite conflicts and negotiations. As elites are both the main sources and targets of news messages in Russia, it is inter-elite rather than elite-to-mass communications that have driven those wanting to gain or retain political power to seek influence over television (Davis 2003: 669). It is because of television’s role as a tool of elite communication that this book has drawn on elite theory to conceptualise the relationship between media and political power in Putin’s Russia. Examining developments in the Russian television sector since 2000 through the lens of elite theory has led to several significant discoveries. I contend that President Putin sought to increase state control over the national television media not merely as a means of influencing public opinion, but as a method of political domination over Russia’s elites. Owing to the weakness of civil society, public opinion has little influence on the decision-making

process in Russia outside the electoral context. Public preferences impact the political process only insofar as elites can use public support as a symbolic resource in their struggles with other elites (Vinokurov 1998). As discussed in Chapter 3, Putin was not initially concerned with silencing all criticism of his administration; this is demonstrated by the relative independence of journalists at NTV in the period immediately following the Gazprom takeover at the channel in April 2001. A degree of imperfect pluralism remained a feature of the television system throughout Putin’s first term in office. Television news reports and analysis criticising the President and his administration over the Dubrovka theatre siege in October 2002, and the Khodorkovsky affair in the autumn of 2003, provide evidence that a limited number of different viewpoints were available to Russian audiences in the period up to 2004. Political leaders and parties opposed to Putin were not completely excluded from access to television; indeed, as shown in Chapter 5, during the 2003 Duma election campaign, commercial broadcasters NTV and Ren-TV devoted more airtime to liberal party SPS than to President Putin’s preferred party, United Russia. The results of a content analysis of television news programmes in Chapter 4 found markedly different patterns of news coverage persisted on state-owned Channel One and commercial broadcaster NTV until at least the end of 2003. As discussed in depth in Chapter 4, in stark contrast to reporting on Channel One, NTV continued to devote significant airtime to coverage of the war in Chechnya, albeit with less criticism of the authorities than when under the ownership of Vladimir Gusinsky. News reporting on Channel One was found to emulate the political agenda of President Putin far more closely than coverage on NTV. However, after the 2004 election, in response to its coverage of the Khodorkovsky affair, NTV was once again purged of its most outspoken journalists and subjected to tighter restrictions. Under new Director General Vladimir Kulistikov, NTV’s coverage of jailed Yukos boss Mikhail Khodorkovsky went from tentative support to open opposition. 1

This book has argued that a limited degree of pluralism in the television sector continued to exist throughout Putin’s first term because its preservation served the interests of the president. I contend that during his first term, President Putin’s power lay in his position as final adjudicator of disputes among the various elite factions comprising his administration. In allowing the media to broadcast differing interpretations of events, President Putin was able to keep these factions guessing as to his true intentions. Further, a degree of media pluralism was helpful to the president in maintaining the balance of power between the elites. For example, as discussed in Chapter 5, in the aftermath of the arrest of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, liberal-minded journalists at NTV proved useful allies to Putin against the security elements within his administration who had become emboldened by their role in the arrest of the Yukos billionaire.