Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Russian Content Dominates Belarusian TV – Something Minsk Both Fears and Fears to Change

Paul Goble

            Staunton, December 7 – Sixty-five percent of the content Belarusian television viewers watch is of Russian origin, something that concerns the Belarusian government but something that Minsk cannot afford financially with content from other countries or afford financially and politically with content produced by Belarusians, according to Pavlyuk Bykovsky.

            But the Belarusian leadership is not the only one that is constrained by this, the “Naviny” writer says. So too is Moscow because when it has put explicitly anti-Lukashenka materials into its programming, the Belarusian government has moved quickly to remove them and to look elsewhere for replacements (

            Moreover, Bykovsky says, they both seem constrained from more dramatic steps by the principle articulated in George Orwell’s dystopian classic, “1984,” in which it is said that Oceana has always fought with East Asia and been friends with Eurasia except when things change dramatically and the reverse is true.

            “Who knows who will be the eternal enemy tomorrow and who will be the eternal friend” of Belarus or Russia, the commentator continues.

            According to Belarusian statistics, 48 percent of Belarusians watch the hybrid channel NTV-Belarus, and 21 percent watch the Russian channel NTV. Minsk doesn’t censor these channels, although it has reacted quickly whenever Moscow television has crossed the line and attacked Lukashenka.

            Additional Belarusian statistics show that 65 percent of Belarusians watch ONT, but only a miniscule number watch Moscow’s First channel.  But since ONT “uses the content of Russian television,” that means that the number of viewers of borrowed Russian programs exceeds the audience of Belarus 1.

            Belarusian television “actively uses Russian content,” and the fact that the share of Russian content now approaches 65 percent has disturbed Minsk officials including Igor Buzovsky, the deputy head of Lukashenka’s Presidential Administration. But doing something about that is another matter.

            Belarusian producers have “made attempts” to create domestic programming, but in most cases, they lack the resources to do more than put on New Year’s musicals and weekly socio-political talk shows. And even those cost so much that the Belarusian government is reluctant to fund them, especially if they promise to showcase opposition views.

            Two years ago, Lukashenka signed an agreement with Ukraine for cooperation on television programming, but nothing has come of that as of now, Buzovsky continues.  That is because Belarus wanted inexpensive Ukrainian entertainment programming while insisting on full control over anything that might have political implications.

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