Professor Stephen Hutchings, The University of Manchester. “17th Annual Aleksanteri Conference: Russia’s Choices for 2030”, University of Helsinki, 25-27 October 2017.
This paper will focus on contemporary Russia’s primary international broadcaster, RT. The paper will emphasise the significance of RT’s emergence, like that of the nation whose interests it is tasked with promoting, at the intersection of the new communications revolution which coincided with the end of the Soviet Union and the triumph of neoliberalism. The analysis will trace the implications of this convergence through RT’s ethos; its approach to channel branding; its deployment of global programme genres; its audience strategies; its political posture; its institutional and journalistic cultures and its use of digital technology. RT’s recent shift from a tool of Russian soft power to the naked instrument of an ‘information war’ in which it has gained pariah status in the West will be linked to an inherent tension between its function as a nation projector and its reliance on cosmopolitan allegiances, tastes and sensibilities born of an increasingly transnational and networked media landscape. The paper’s central argument will be that RT both fails to overcome this contradiction, and works with its grain to engage in a radical re-evaluation of established news values which adds to its disruptive presence on the world stage.