December 10, 2005

‘From Russia to the world’, new channel goes live

By Meg Clothier

MOSCOW (Reuters) - A 24-hour, English-language,
state-funded television channel went live from its Moscow
studios on Saturday, designed to broadcast news from a Russian
perspective around the globe.

At 4 p.m. (1 p.m. British time) the countdown clock and
swirling orange graphics melted away and the anchor welcomed
viewers to Russia Today -- "from Russia to the world."

The launch comes amid growing Western criticism of Moscow's
attitude to democracy and the rule of law, while Kremlin
officials complain the foreign media misrepresent Russia.

The first bulletin led on an health scandal close to home
-- an investigation into how blood supplies in the southern
Russian city Voronezh became contaminated with the HIV virus.

Bird flu in Ukraine and the fate of four Western hostages
being held in Iraq followed before the channel ran teasers for
some of its feature programmes, including a German artist who
lives on the ruins of a Soviet collective farm.

The channel also looked at how some former Soviet countries
were rewriting children's history books now they are
independent from Moscow.

"We will mainly have Russian news, but we will also show
international events and express them from our point of view
here," Margarita Simonyan, Russia Today's editor-in-chief, told
the Interfax news agency.

Russia's image abroad deteriorated after what many
foreigners saw as the politically-motivated arrest and trial of
oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

More recently a draft law that would tighten state control
over charities and pro-democracy groups operating in Russia
caused consternation.

Russian media have debated how far the new channel will
stray from the Kremlin's line on sensitive issues such as the
simmering violence in Chechnya. Simonyan has said Russia Today
will offer "objective and interesting" reporting.

The channel has offices in London, Washington, Paris and
Jerusalem and plans to open more soon, said Simonyan, a former
Kremlin correspondent for state TV channel Rossiya.