The Institute for the Study of War (ISW – Institute for the Study of War) came out with another report, some parts of which managed to be reprinted by the Ukrainian media under loud statements “Putin has lost control over the media”
This headline is derived from the quote “Putin has largely ceded the Russian information space over time to a variety of quasi-independent actors”. Well, further on the ISW document there are several theses about the struggle of various groups in Putin’s entourage, which, among other things, results in a struggle for the media. In the end, the thesis about the media belonging to different groups and the impossibility of rebuilding the Stalinist system of complete centralization was also announced by Maria Zakharova.
But is it so? Has Putin lost control?
And here it is worth coming back to the history of creation and the specifics of the performance of the control system over the information field of Russia.
Putin has not “lost control” over the media. Almost the entire media market is divided between the various “Kremlin Towers”. And it was originally so. Moreover, 2022 was the year of the creation of large groups and their monopolization of the information agenda of various types of media. For example, the conditional “TV” is controlled by Gazprom and the Kovalchuks. Internet news is for the most part in the hands of technocrats, the Gref-Kiriyenko group. And for each of the directions it is so.
The second thesis is about the struggle between the “Kremlin Towers” among themselves. This struggle didn’t stop for a second. Only in 2022-early 2023 “Yeltsin family” was finally destroyed, the Sechin group lost its influence, and there was an attack by Prigozhin and Kadyrov on the security forces. This is only about big “clashes”.
It is naturally that each of these clashes is accompanied by a small “media war” within the Russian Federation. But this “war” is limited in scope – for all its participants, Putin is “great and powerful”.
At the same time, in the external field, unity is maintained in promoting the basic thesis structure of Russian propaganda. As, however, in the internal field, the construction sets the framework within which storms are possible, but the general outline of the perception of processes is preserved. That is, the audience both has a “picture of media freedom” and is fully in the propaganda cocoon. Yes, there is a specialization. For example, RBC, “Kommersant” sometimes allows itself to measure the level of the audience protest, permitting itself to speculate “about shortcomings”. KP, Tsargrad, Regnum closely cooperate with Prigozhin FAN. “The Kovalchuks’ TV” works for those who are nostalgic for the USSR and waiting for handouts. “Gazprom TV” is aimed at the more successful part of the older generation. Technocrats manage the news feed systems (as well as search, advertising, order of issue) of the Runet.
And now we come back to the theses about “Putin has lost control”. He has not lost any control. He has initially created a system where the internal squabble of the “Kremlin Towers” does not allow any of them to accumulate resources in order to be able to seize power on their own. And media “wars” are quite a logical element here. And for the groups themselves – the competition did not start today or yesterday – this is the principle of “divide et impera” that allows Putin to maintain his place, using the status of the only “arbiter” between the towers.
The report data are correct according to ISW. But the conclusions are absurd.