The Role of RT Television Channel in Forming Russia's Global Image

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Anna V. Tolokonnikova

PhD in Philology, Associate Professor at the Chair of Mass Media Theory and Economics, Faculty of Journalism, Lomonosov Moscow State University, Moscow, Russia

Daria O. Budakova

Analyst at ForwardPMX, a global brand performance agency, Moscow, Russia


Section: Television and Radio

The article examines the role of RT television channel (previously known as Russia Today) in shaping Russia’s image on the international arena. The channel was established in 2005, aiming to show the country’s official point of view on significant political issues and to inform foreign audiences about Russia’s life. Today the channel broadcasts in more than a hundred countries around the world in English, Spanish, French and Arabic languages and, when it comes to technical performance, stands in line with such giants of news broadcasting as BBC, CNN and Al Jazeera. The article starts with an analysis of the key study concepts such as image, country image and state image. Further, it briefly describes the historical prerequisites for the emergence of new approaches to the formation of Russia’s external image policy in 2000—2005. The launch of the English-language RT channel can be considered as a consequence of the set priorities and clear objectives of promoting Russia’s positive image: the article contains confirmatory comments of officials indicating the purpose and reasons for the launch of such a broadcaster. The main part of the article analyzes RT’s programs for the use of the key components that affect the perception of the country image — the so-called “image markers”. Such “markers” were determined on the basis of the approach to the study of Russia’s international image formation strategy by Erast Galumov, research of image concepts structure by Dmitry Gavra and Alena Savitskaya and visualization of six national brand perception indicators by Simon Anholt. Having highlighted similar key elements in the researchers’ studies, the authors of the article identified such significant image indicators as “territory”, “state power”, “economy”, “culture and science” and “people”. Due to the choice of a news channel as the center of the authors’ attention, the “information” marker is also included in the list of the key image indicators. The results of the content analysis of RT channel’s programs for the use of image markers is presented further in the article. The empirical base of the research is built upon the programs aired on the flagship (English-language) RT channel between January, 1 and January, 31, 2017 — the time period before and after Donald Trump’s inauguration, which took place on January 20 and added potential improvement of relations between Russia and the USA to the agenda. The authors analyzed the programs’ episodes with the leading number of views on RT’s official English channel on YouTube, since the international format of content distribution does not allow to rely on rating indicators. The study showed that all the country image markers highlighted theoretically were reflected in the most popular programs of the channel. This confirms RT’s deliberate contribution to shaping Russia’s positive image abroad, as well as the targeted use of this media outlet by the Russian authorities for branding purposes.

Keywords: state image, image of Russia, image formation, RT channel, Russia Today
DOI: 10.30547/vestnik.journ.5.2019.89119


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