In particular, the President viewed the River of Time installation, bringing together over 100 events in Russia Today’s 10-year history.
Earlier, the President sent a congratulatory message to the television company’s staff, congratulating them on 10 years of broadcasts.
* * *
Speech at celebration honouring 10th anniversary of Russia Today television channel
President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, friends,
I am very pleased to be here today among you to celebrate the 10th anniversary since the start of Russia Today’s work. When this idea was first born, I’ll tell you honestly, I did not expect that it would be implemented with such spirit, on such a large scale, and bring together such an outstanding group of talented individuals.
Just now, when I was looking at instances of your work and how you do this, I thought: our greatest merit lies in letting you prove yourselves, in liberating you, not forcing you to do anything, ensuring you work freely, giving you the chance to have fun and work at your own enjoyment. And we can see the result – which, of course, is excellent.
I want to congratulate you on your 10th anniversary, on this special date, on the fact that you have been able to achieve a great deal in these years – you know all this, but I am will say it again: creating six information channels, including a documentary channel, as well as a global video news agency.
Today, it is my pleasure to note that Russia Today is the number one TV news channel in the world on YouTube. The total number of views has exceeded three billion. Just now, Margarita [Simonyan] showed me that it’s at nearer four billion – 3.6 or 3.8 billion – which is an absolute record.
Let me say that these are amazing achievements. These are real breakthroughs in the information world, in terms of developing up to date, leading content and a wide variety of topics and programmes, and creative presentation of materials.
We saw a good example of this today, it was like when our seamen rip their shirts. I can see here that this is how your correspondents work as well, fighting for points. That’s really impressive. But don’t rip anything else off yourselves. Just the seamen’s shirts, and stop at that.
All this is truly important; you have been able to create an international team of TV stars, and that is a guarantee of success. Well-known journalists, as well as newcomers to the profession, from around the world are happy to work with you.
You compete on the same playing field as international news giants, and are already beating them according to many parameters. In some regions of the world, you have higher ratings than traditional news organisations that have long been operating in the international information market.
The Russia Today television channel is now accessible to 700 million viewers. Naturally, we do not know how many people actually watch it, but it is accessible to 700 million. This is a very large audience, but it can be even greater. But this is already a lot, so we need to tap into this audience.
Today, when the situation in global politics is, frankly speaking, complicated, it is more important than ever for your and our voice, your and our position, to be heard not only by politicians, not just the political elite, but also, first and foremost, by ordinary people around the world.
In order to increase your viewer numbers and your popularity among them, you will certainly need a high level of professionalism. And you reassert this professionalism daily through your hard work and your achievements.
No topics are off-limits to you – this is also highly important. You provide different points of view on nearly every significant event. As we say, you do not weigh viewers down with heavy, blunt propaganda cliches. Your greatest strength is presenting information freely and independently.
Of course, here in Russia we – by “we” I mean the Russian authorities – are no saints either, and we make mistakes; I suppose some things could be improved or are not as good as they could be. So objective presentation of materials concerning our nation is, again, highly important as well. I hope that it will remain this way. That is how the media should be: objective and interesting. Otherwise, there will be no demand for it.
Let me tell you something that may be somewhat unexpected and perhaps even strange. When I was viewing your materials, I looked at your questions and comments from politicians, my colleagues from other countries, and here is something I noticed: I agree with them on certain issues. Why? Because civil society, people like you, creative, free, and sometimes somewhat unbridled, have their own view of things. It may be no worse than ours, or it may, in some ways, be better. But we, the people who hold the responsibility for making decisions and the consequences of those decisions, also have our own view on things, and also have a right to our opinions.
Your objective is not to serve the interests of the Russian authorities, but to present these different points of view in order for average citizens, viewers and listeners to have a general, correct, multifaceted, three-dimensional view on whether the authorities are making the right choices, whether they are working toward the interests of society and all citizens, or in the interests of certain elites or quasi-elites, monopolistic groups, trying to gain power. This mission is highly important.
Many media throughout the world receive financial support from the government, but that’s entirely beside the point. What’s most important with regard to Russia Today is that we do not control you – I have already said this in different ways – and we do not meddle in your fieldwork, as well as other work. You have your own editorial policies and we respect that approach. Moreover, if somebody in the government stops respecting this and tries to control you, you will certainly be unable to reach this level of creativity. And we are deeply interested in you being effective.
At the same time, it would be strange if you ignored the position of the Russian authorities or joined your colleagues from other countries for whom informational confrontations, in this case with our country, have become a kind of trend. There is absolutely no need to get drawn into this interchange, in my view. There is no reason to get involved in this contest; we simply need to state our position – that is the power of free media.
Indeed, you broadcast our point of view on nearly all issues – with regard to Russia’s internal life and international issues – but we do not hide our positions. In this respect, I feel, that is the main support for our work: the fact that our policy is entirely transparent, I assure you, with the exception of certain very specific things. We have nothing to hide. It is a truthful policy, and we have never had anything to conceal from anyone. That is the strength of our policies and, I believe, your work, because you and we have nothing to hide.
Your television channel gives people the opportunity to receive objective information about Russia and, incidentally, provides a free platform for politicians from other countries who want to express their opinion on current events. We are always ready for open, constructive discussions.
There are more than enough examples here. In recent years, so-called double standards, a clear division into “insiders” and “outsiders,” (I mean countries and regions of the world), distortion of events and their causes – they are simply coming out, and this is becoming entirely clear and conspicuous. For example, silence concerning the humanitarian catastrophes in, say, eastern Ukraine, which you showed very clearly.
It is regrettable that even international human rights activists seem to be completely tongue-tied regarding many glaring facts. Whereas you provide that information. Your channel has made an enormous input into telling about the true events in Ukraine overall, and in southeast Ukraine, as well as other regions of the world.
You have the same open and objective information policy with regard to the events in Syria: today, we saw a great deal about this here as well, and overall, you are doing much to counter terrorism. It is well known that the media and the Internet are among its weapons – perhaps even its primary weapon. They use these media to recruit young people, and spread the ideological disease of terrorism. The media’s responsibility in this situation increases exponentially. You understand this well and provide fair coverage of all events, promoting the unification of people in the fight against this threat.
Of course, your channel traditionally gives a great deal of attention to Russia itself. You talk about the Russian regions, the people living here, their work, their civic initiatives, our magnificent nature, our cultural heritage, the customs of our multi-ethnic nation, our values and our history, the achievements of our country, true problems rather than made-up ones, of which we have more than enough, and how they are being resolved. You approach these topics both responsibly and creatively. I want to thank you for this, wish you success and promise that we will not get in your way.