How Tatarstan helps Russia’s media market to overcome coronacrisis

Our republic was the first to start talking about help for the media market — TNV channel’s head Ilshat Aminov first, then President Rustam Minnikhanov

The Russian government created a project of the decree on adding the mass media to the list of sectors affected by the coronavirus. Authors of the project, employees of the Russian Ministry of Economic Development, write that a fall in ad sales threatens with destabilisation of the information space if TV, online outlets, newspapers are not offered effective supporting measures. Read in Realnoe Vremya’s report how Tatarstan lobbied the help for the Russian media.

“Threat of destabilisation of information space”: mass media to be considered affected by quarantine

Russia’s Ministry of Economic Development created a project of the decree of the Russian government on adding the mass media to the list of the sectors most affected by the coronavirus. Tatar-inform agency said about this on 22 May.

Neudascha Tatarstan Telegram channel posted a document it had at its disposal that, according to the channel’s authors, Minister of Economic Development of Russia Maksim Reshetnikov had sent to Mikhail Mishustin. The letter to the prime minister has a project of the decree on changes to the list of affected sectors and an explanatory note to this project. It reads that all mass media without exception faced a great outflow of advertisers because of the coronavirus. The mass media have to refuse projects, calculate losses.

“Press, subscription and book sales revenue is reducing,” the note reads. “Crisis occurrences have already affected content creators who have to calculate losses by making decisions to stop projects that began because the termination of production amid reduced solvent demand from the mass media will just increase the amount of losses.”

The document offers to complement the list from the clause Auxiliary Activity Linked with Air Transport with part 12. It includes Mass Media and Printing Production with division into television, online outlets, printed newspapers, information agencies, book, newspaper, magazine printing. The absence of supporting measures for the mass media and printing production, moreover most of them, especially regions ones, are small and medium-sized enterprises “creates a real threat of destabilisation of the information space”, the authors of the note say.

How Aminov asked Minnikhanov for support, while Minnikhanov asked the government of Russia for this

Ilshat Aminov, director general of TNV channel and chairman of the Tatarstan Union of Journalists, asked Rustam Minnikhanov to add the mass media to the list of the sectors most affected by the coronavirus at regional level first. He did this at a general teleconference of Tatarstan mass media representatives with the head of the republic. Tatarstan mass media raised one of the serious problems of the media market then — a fall in advertising incomes.

Ilshat Aminov: “We hope that federal authorities will hear us because the support of the mass media is now needed as never before”

Several days ago Rustam Minnikhanov asked the centre to include mass media to the number of economic sectors most affected by COVID-19. He sent a corresponding letter to Acting Prime Minister of Russia Andrey Belousov (Mishustin was ill and in quarantine). Minnikhanov stressed in his letter that because of the coronavirus pandemic the volume of the advertising market and sales of papers in the regional mass media suddenly reduced, which can provoke a suspension or even termination of activity, which, in turn, will lead to poorer information of the population and influence the social and political stability and security.

“It is the first regional leader to make such a step,” Ilshat Aminov commented on this initiative for Realnoe Vremya. “We hope that federal authorities will hear us because the support of the mass media is now needed as never before. This sector can rightly be considered one of the most affected.”

Traffic grows but advertising incomes fall

The situation in the Tatarstan media market is paradoxical: there is a simultaneous explosive growth of traffic and rapid reduction of advertising sales.

For instance, if last October the total citation index of Tatarstan mass media was 330,9, it fell to 282,35 in November, it rose to 353,52 in December. January (344,14) and February (333,3) were marked for a lower citation index. But in March 2020, when a lockdown was declared in Russia, the indicator increased to 355,02. April was even better for newspapers — the total citation index of top Tatarstan mass media grew to 386,45.

Kazan citizens’ television viewing time has risen from 208 to 262 minutes a day. Especially high growth was during the first two weeks of total self-isolation. Meanwhile, last April the TV viewing time reduced compared to March.

However, experts and market players warn that it is forecasted that TV advertising budgets in 2020 might reduce by 25-30% — from 40 to 50 billion rubles. Advertising budgets can decrease by more than a half, while the fall in advertising on websites of the mass media can total 3-4 billion rubles. “If we are talking about private mass media, their situation is really catastrophic. The market in April fell almost to zero,” Ilshat Aminov told Realnoe Vremya.

According to the Union of Journalists of the Russian Federation, the number of copies and programmes reduced in 38% of surveyed representatives of the media market during the pandemic. 38% of editorials reduced salaries by more than 20%, 19% mass media laid off staff. Only 25% keep working as usual.

The reason is a reduction in advertising incomes because of a reduction of some advertisers. Moreover, only 14% of the mass media received support from the regional authorities.

By Sergey Afanasyev