Russia Today > Putin today

rt-logoFor the most part, I would not depict Russia or its President Putin of possessing optimal skills in public diplomacy.  Propaganda, maybe – not public diplomacy.  However, despite this, Russia has propelled one of its public diplomacy efforts world wide and with relatively high standards and respect.  RT, which stands for Russia Today, is a broadcasting effort that “provides an alternative perspective on major global events, and acquaints an international audience with the Russian viewpoint.”

I love this description particularly because it honestly portrays itself as an effort to disseminate the Russian viewpoint.  In my opinion, this statement is excellent and creates all the difference in terms of my respect for this organization.  Namely, because unlike Fox News, which claims to be “Fair and Balanced“, RT accepts the fact that their position as a news organization is biased, thus allowing its audience to take that into consideration upon absorbing its information.  Knowing that every news organization in the world is biased to some extent, I sincerely respect RT for acknowledging its own bias especially when the majority of news organizations place an enormous amount of effort and capital on ensuring audiences of their complete neutrality.

In addition to their forthright self-portrayal, RT has made a number of accomplishments including reaching an audience of “over 700 million people in 100+ countries” in four languages.   Part of this success is undoubtedly due to RT’s outstanding presence on YouTube.  RT was actually the first TV news channel to reach one BILLION views on YouTube.  RT’s YouTube presence alone shows its owners’ immense foresight into the best media platforms to reach young, emerging audiences.

RT has represented itself honestly, disseminated itself wisely and promoted itself under the purposeful slogan, “Question More“.  I see RT as an excellent example of public diplomacy in the way that it promotes and portrays world news stories through the Russian lens.  I appreciate that it does this strategically and honestly.

However – while I, personally, respect RT – as an effort to make global audiences like Russia and its people more, I guesstimate that RT is not the taking the best approach.  I say this because – while I am quite blunt and unapologetic and appreciate this characteristic in others – I recognize that a lot of people do not appreciate those qualities.  While looking at RT’s “USA” page, I am even quite annoyed at the way RT has taken every opportunity to portray the United States government as evil and incompetent.  However, that being said, when I see this I remember that RT has already acknowledged its own bias, and that makes me less mad.  I also appreciate it because while RT is quite harsh towards the United States, perhaps it does provide, to some extent, a view of the U.S. and the rest of the world that Americans should consider.  Much like how the U.S. tends to demonize Russia, perhaps we, as Americans, should take a closer look at ourselves through that hypercritical lens, and make an effort to address some of those critiques that we can’t bring ourselves to admit.

Or, on the other hand, perhaps RT just effectively implemented soft power on Russia’s behalf – persuading me (and others) to think just the way they hoped.

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4 thoughts on “Russia Today > Putin today

  1. I definitely agree with you here about the candidness of RT, but also the opportunity for Americans to take a critical look at their own position from an outside party.
    As an effective form of communication, broadcast is definitely the way to go. RT is making use of communication channels that the majority of Americans consume every day. Not that Americans are tuning in to RT on a daily basis or checking into their website, but by broadcasting on channels Americans use a lot, they are more likely to come across them. Especially with broadcast television; more Americans have access to television than the internet.
    China is using a similar method with broadcast television, but they are also taking advantage of newspapers. About once a week, I get a mini-newspaper by China in addition to my edition of the Washington Post. It’s an interesting strategy, but with the newspaper industry in decline, I’m not sure it’s the most efficient move on their part.

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  2. I agree that it is respectable that Russia Today has acknowledged its bias and allows its audience to be aware of its “Russian lens” when reporting. One of the most interesting elements of your blog was the comment regarding Russia Today’s early presence on YouTube and their their accomplishment of being the first channel to reach a billion views. This is especially interesting because Russia Today’s embrace of social media seems to be at odds with the Russia’s strengthened internet censorship efforts and laws such as the “Black List” that block internet websites that have even one page that is deemed “unsuitable.” A likely reality for YouTube given the large amount of content. Therefore, I wonder how this law and similar ones will impact Russia Today’s outreach efforts, since as you note, part of its success has been the outlet’s strong presence on YouTube.
    The ability to reach one billion views is also interesting because it reveals that Russia Today has a strong online community and following. As you note at the end of your blog, Russia has a negative view of the United States, and as Russia Today’s strong online community demonstrates, many in the world hold this same view. Thus, I agree with you that we as Americans should be more introspective and better understand how we are perceived abroad, so that we can better address our critics through out media, and be more honest about our shortcomings.

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  3. JSMITH, I think your post might be my favorite one of all the PD posts. It’s an interesting point to consider that PD doesn’t always mean being PC. I think FH has a good point that RT’s success on YouTube may be because there are many in the world that share a similar negative view of the US. It’s definitely an issue that those who are working on US PD need to keep in mind. Ultimately, I don’t think RT is as effective at PD as it could be, however, there may be things we can learn from their relatively honest representation of themselves.

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  4. I think that although they openly admit their bias, that it’s still just another vehicle for them to “troll” US foreign policy and considering their large reach, this could be dangerous. It’s interesting though, that they use YouTube, an American-based platform, to do this. Their hypocrisy, in addition to their censorship efforts would make an informed audience take anything they say with a grain of salt but if they are users that hate America anyway then it probably doesn’t matter to them.

    -Laurel B.

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