Visitors to disinfo.com will no doubt have seen more than a few YouTube clips from Russia Today, the cable television channel that dares to feature such mainstream-media personae non gratae as Alex Jones and Danny Schechter. Now RT, as it is being re-branded (presumably to be more palatable to Americans), is starting to attract the attention of its establishment brethren. The New York Times can’t resist some sniping at this upstart that has the audacity to air stories the American media won’t cover:
…Ratings have risen as Russia Today has reported on controversial topics on the fringe of mainstream news. One recent report focused on a summit meeting in Washington by Christians United for Israel, which the station said raised questions on the influence of religion on American foreign policy.
Another report featured an interview with Malik Zulu Shabazz, the national chairman of the New Black Panther Party.
Ms. Simonyan, the editor in chief, said Russia Today journalists were not specifically looking for negative qualities of American life and politics to highlight.
Instead, she characterized the station’s editors as applying to the United States the same yardsticks that Western correspondents use in their coverage of Russia. One recent headline on the station’s Web site proclaimed: “Welcome to the Gulag, American style.”
Ms. Simonyan says that with the change to this format and with rebranding as “RT,” ratings in the United States have risen…
Russia Today pays cable companies to be included in subscribers’ packages. And it is making gains in viewing in hotel rooms. Russia Today is on television systems for Marriott, Hyatt, Hilton, Sheraton and Renaissance. The station is available in New York on Time Warner Cable.
At times, Russia Today’s coverage of America has veered into the realm of conspiracy theory.
The station and its Web site, in particular, are a magnet for those who believe the American government had a role in the Sept. 11 attacks, so-called truthers, and those who believe President Obama is not a natural-born American citizen and therefore is ineligible to be president, so-called birthers. The Web site, for example, ran a four-part series titled “911 Reasons 911 Was (Probably) an Inside Job.”
Denis Trunov, the deputy editor in chief, who works in Washington, denied that the coverage leaned toward the conspiratorial, and said it came down to definitions. He characterized the coverage as simply reflecting a wider range of views than are available elsewhere on cable.
The editorial policy, he said, is to “talk openly about issues that people care about but often are considered too hot for the mainstream media.”
In political circles in Moscow, where Western media coverage has piqued the government for years, the station’s new focus on the United States is applauded.
“The Americans have a view of Russia and they show it to us,” Aleksei Makarkin, an analyst at the Institute of Political Technology, a Moscow think tank, said in a telephone interview. “Russians have a point of view about America, too, and we want to show it to you.”