‘Anti-CNN’ TV network chief to lead media group

The head of Russia’s highly successful “anti-CNN” TV network has been appointed chief editor of the new state media behemoth charged with improving the country’s image abroad.

Margarita Simonyan (33), head of the state’s RT foreign-language network, will now be responsible for shaping editorial policies of a new multimedia corporation, Rossiya Segodnya (Russia Today).

President Vladimir Putin last month ordered the establishment of Russia Today, to absorb most state media companies — RIA Novosti news agency, Voice of Russia radio and RT television. Russia Today will be headed by Dmitry Kiselyov, a staunch Putin loyalist and nationalist, denounced by liberals for his anti-Western and anti-gay views.

In his decree on Russia Today, Mr. Putin said its role will be to transmit to foreign audiences information about the “Russian Federation’s state policy and public life in Russia”.

Ms. Simonyan is well equipped to handle the task.

Over her eight years in charge of RT, she has shaped it into a popular news outlet that gives an alternative to Western media’s coverage of the international scene.

With an annual budget of over $300 million and a staff of 2,500 who broadcast in English, Spanish and Arabic, RT today has bigger audience in major U.S. cities than all other foreign broadcasters taken together.

In Britain, two million people watch RT regularly. In June, RT broke a YouTube record by becoming the first TV station to get a billion views of its videos.

Germany’s Spiegel called RT “anti-CNN” and “Russia’s most effective weapon in the battle for influencing the opinions of the global public”.

The Kremlin says the state media overhaul is aimed at further honing Russian propaganda tools.

“The tool of propaganda is an integral part of any state. It is everywhere. And Russia should have it as well,” said Dmitry Peskov, Mr. Putin’s press secretary.

Pro-Kremlin analysts have long complained that despite Russia’s foreign policy successes it keeps losing the “information war” to Western media.

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