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Russia: RFE/RL Speaks To Media Watchdog Head

In April 2004, Yevrofinans Vice President Boris Boyarskov was named to head the Federal Service for Monitoring Compliance With Legislation in the Sphere of Mass Communications and the Cultural Heritage. Yevrofinans is a major media player and a partner of Gazprom-Media. It owns major stakes in NTV, St. Petersburg's Peterburg television channel, and the Prime-TASS news agency. At the time of his appointment, "Kommersant-Daily" reported that there is a gap in Boyarskov's official biography between his military service at the end of the 1980s and when he began working for Imperial bank in 1994, raising suspicions that he worked for the secret services during this time. The daily noted that he was at one time considered a leading candidate for the post of Central Bank security chief. On 1 July, Boyarskov spoke to RFE/RL's Russian Service correspondent Anna Kachkaeva and reviewed the media situation in Russia.

RFE/RL: What should the [Culture and Mass Communications Ministry] be like, and to what extent are you worried about the ministry and about your agency?

Boyarskov: I'd be happy, of course, to answer questions related to my service, you understand.

RFE/RL: We can talk about your service later. Now I would like to know your opinion about all of this, so that I can ask about your service.

Boyarskov: The thing is that it is the most complicated of all to restructure people themselves, rather than agencies as a whole. The things that ministries, agencies, and services are supposed to be doing are spelled out in the instructions concerning each of them. However, there is a kind of inertia, it seems to me, that leads people to do what they have always done when they should stop and understand that, yes, we have a huge problem with the legal-normative regulations in our sphere of activity and with financing. We should have focused our efforts on these two points of support and that is precisely where the ministry should be working -- in the legal-normative sphere.

RFE/RL: Let's talk about regulation. On its first anniversary, what has your service accomplished?

Boyarskov: I'll tell you straight -- today we do not have any achievements about which we could brag in front of your audience. We achieved the main things -- although not as quickly as necessary -- but we secured the licensing of television and radio broadcasting and the other forms of activity that we needed to secure. The registration of the mass media -- which, by the way, we've done since last August -- we managed to do literally "on our knees" thanks to the fact that the basic core of people doing this work remained. We regulated the import and export of cultural valuables. That is, we ensured the rights of citizens in these activities. In short, we were able to facilitate the continued formation of the media market.

RFE/RL: So, you say that your service influences the formation of the media market?

Boyarskov: I say that it enforces the part of state media policy that is connected with the formation of the media market. Since we issue licenses, since we oversee the conduct of tenders by the federal tender commission, we participate in this work.

RFE/RL: And what was your role when during the last month and a half there was a whole bunch of sales and purchases [in the media sector] and new owners appeared. Isn't it true that you could only observe this process?

Boyarskov: And that's a good thing. It shows that our participation in the formation of the media market as an economic mechanism is so unnoticeable that we, essentially, as a state organ do not influence the transfer of ownership rights from one owner to another. We influence the content of their programming conceptions -- that's what we are tracking.

RFE/RL: I would like to ask you to characterize what is happening today in the market. Why was there such excitement among the elites about the adoption of the [voluntary] charter on morality in the media? And all these sales and re-sales [of media outlets] -- what is that all about, in your view?

Boyarskov: Those are two questions. First, you and I should look at the work of the media as a good, lively market where all businesspeople have the opportunity to realize their ambitious plans if they are willing to apply their efforts, their hearts, their minds. Therefore, from this point of view the liveliness of the market is a very good sign. That is, people are appearing who are ready, among other things, to invest their money and, apparently, they are solid, honorable purchasers who have been looking at the Russian market for a long time. Now they are ready to take a risk there -- I mean the purchase of a 30 percent stake in REN-TV [by Germany's RTL group] and of "Moskovskie novosti" [by Ukraine's Media International].

RFE/RL: That is, the media monitoring service welcomes the arrival of foreigners?

Boyarskov: I mean that I, as a citizen, welcome any animation of the market.

RFE/RL: The main thing is that you as a government bureaucrat supported this. Judging by your words, you support it. That means there is hope for the market's future.

Boyarskov: God willing.

RFE/RL: Nonetheless, don't you associate any of this with preparations for the [2007 legislative and 2008 presidential] elections?

Boyarskov: You are moving ahead. I said this was the "first" point. Second, there are the approaching, even looming, political events. Some people, naturally, are interested in using the mass media as a tool for achieving their political goals, for formulating their issues. This tendency is also perfectly evident and it is understandable that the government and the leaders of various opposition currents are extremely concerned about this. It is important that their work in this sphere remains within the limits of the law and does not lead to any outbursts or violations of Article 4 of the law on the mass media, to the restriction of the rights of journalists to disseminate information.

RFE/RL: And are you afraid or do you know that there have been examples of this during the period that you have been working [for the government]?

Boyarskov: What?

RFE/RL: Violations of the rights of journalists. I'm just interested to know how you, as a government bureaucrat, acted in this connection.

Boyarskov: We wrote to the prosecutor's office and to the organs of government that, in our opinion, tried wrongly to place journalists under their control.

RFE/RL: For example?

Boyarskov: There were cases when it was attempted to replace six media-outlet heads after an election on the basis of a decision by the head of a subject of the Russian Federation. As I understand, everything was done correctly in the end.

RFE/RL: They all kept their jobs?

Boyarskov: Apparently, if they are forced out of their posts, it won't happen all at once but in strict accordance with the Labor Code.

RFE/RL: That is, you have taken on yourself, in part, the function of the Union of Journalists and the National Association of Telebroadcasters. From what you say, it sounds as if you are prepared to defend journalists.

Boyarskov: [Glasnost Defense Foundation head Aleksei] Simonov and I have found a common language and, it seems to me, this is a very interesting area of activity. You know, there is one thing that really bothers me. I was looking on the website of the Glasnost Defense Foundation and discovered that it is financed 100 percent by foreigners. That is, everything that is connected with the defense of freedom of speech, of glasnost, is financed by money donated from abroad.

RFE/RL: Well, there was the Open Russia foundation, but we all know where [former Yukos CEO Mikhail] Khodorkovskii is now. That is a problem.

Boyarskov: Nonetheless, it is offensive. You know, it is a sign that our Russian business is not paying sufficient attention to this issue.

RFE/RL: This doesn't mean that you, on this basis, as a monitoring service, are going to investigate those organizations out of fear that they are spreading some sort of "orange" infection?

Boyarskov: Absolutely not. "Orange" infections, in my opinion, are not spread from abroad, but they grow up at home because of, in part, the dissatisfaction of citizens with their lives.

(A complete transcript of this interview in Russian can be seen at

See also:

Business And Politics At A Liberal Russian Weekly

Media Deals Signal Beginning Of Election Season