Freedom of Expression in Russia's New Mediasphere
In recent years, the Russian government has dramatically expanded its restrictions on the internet, while simultaneously consolidating its grip on traditional media. The internet, however, because of its transnational configuration, continues to evade comprehensive state control and offers ever new opportunities for disseminating and consuming dissenting opinions. Drawing on a wide range of disciplines, including media law, human rights, political science, media and cultural studies, and the study of religion, this book examines the current state of the freedom of speech, freedom of expression, and media freedom in Russia, focusing on digital media and cross-media initiatives that bridge traditional and new media spheres. It assesses how the conditions for free speech are influenced by the dynamic development of Russian media, including the expansion of digital technologies, explores the interaction and transfer of practices, formats, stylistics and aesthetics between independent and state-owned media, and discusses how far traditional media co-opt strategies developed by and associated with independent media to mask their lack of free expression. Overall, the book provides a deep and rich understanding of the changing structures and practices of national and transnational Russian media and how they condition the boundaries of freedom of expression in Russia today.
Russian television has a common problem: the most active media consumers are abandoning television to binge-watch foreign TV shows on online streaming services or social networks with video content. Transmedia storytelling (TS) could re-invent old-fashioned media by using multiple media platforms, content expansion and audience engagement to add active media consumers to a decreasing television audience.
But will TS really help Russian TV re-invent itself and its audience or will it simply disguise the gap between the different interests of TV audiences and producers? This chapter first gives an overview of recent developments in Russian television, its audience and transmedia storytelling. It then studies the transmedia project “Sasha Sokolov. The Last Russian Writer”, produced by Russia’s leading broadcaster Channel One Russia, using methodology based on Gambarato’s (2013) transmedia analytical model.
The documentary’s subject is a little-known, cult author; it is produced as a detective docudrama and promoted by transmedia strategies, which contributed to its remarkable success, even in an unpopular category. However, the closed character of Russian television and the producers’ choice to limit the participatory opportunities of TS diminished the possibly greater success of the program. This case demonstrates the problems of freedom of expression on Russian TV, which is limited to “safe” topics (such as literature) and allows alternative (and not always argumentative) opinions only from the members of an elite group. Contemporary media technologies and strategies are used to expand the number of viewers, but not to initiate public discussion.