In This Review

Television, Power, and the Public in Russia
Television, Power, and the Public in Russia
By Ellen Mickiewicz
Cambridge University Press, 2008, 212 pp

No one has studied longer or in a more sophisticated fashion Soviet and now Russian television than Mickiewicz. Here, she focuses on those at the receiving end, the viewers. Getting at how the average Russian interprets the messages intended to be conveyed by those who control the media is tricky, and she tackles the task by using multiple focus groups in four major Russian cities. She discovers not only that viewers, whatever their educational level or age, take away impressions often quite different from what the media masters would wish but also that they have relatively well-honed skills (she calls them "heuristic tools") with which to sort things out for themselves. Despite differences among them, in general the viewers respond skeptically to what the powers that be are selling, reprocessing the messages by filtering them through what they know firsthand. By digging below the surface, Mickiewicz also learns that contrary to the findings of generalized surveys suggesting that Russians react indifferently to the repression of independent media, in fact Russians recognize the importance of diverse views in the media and resent the curtailment of those views.