Informal Instruments of Formal Power: Case of Russian Mass Media
This paper investigates the relationship between the Russian government and mass media businesses. With the state ownership monopoly in the past, transitioning countries do not have evolutionary experience of enforcing corporate law, transparency or protecting minority shareholder rights, and balanced response to stakeholder interests. These represent formal valuable instruments of formal economy. We examine Russia’s recent developments in ownership structure in mass media industries based on insider information – semi-structured interviews with owners and/or top managers of mass media companies from Russian regions, capital cities, and also freelancers who are not affiliated with traditional media companies. With consensus to principles of democratic developments, the share of the state ownership and non-related businesses in Russia’s mass media capital decreased dramatically. Does it mean that mass media companies are becoming independent from the state and oligarchs? We argue that it is still far from being true, and informal pressures and controls over mass media have been developed and are widely used in Russia. We state that loyalty to state/municipal/regional powers (lobbying of their interests) helps these companies to compete against “independent” media. This erosion of principles of independence of mass media in Russia is the result of a corrupted governance model.