More than 20 journalists from St Petersburg television channel 100TV have resigned from their posts, after head of the channel’s media holding, media mogul and Putin-ally Aram Gabrelyanov, implemented plans to rebrand the station in the image of pro-Kremlin tabloid LifeNews.
Former journalists from the TV channel told Rain TV that Gabrelyanov, who gained financial and creative control of 100TV’s media holding Baltic Media Group in January 2015, has sought to transform the channel into a St Petersburg version of LifeNews — LifeNews Neva — by setting a new editorial agenda, a plan he announced in March this year.
“Of course, they were saying that things would change, but there was only one question — in what way,” former 100TV journalist Alexander Tupolev told Rain. “It became clear that [100TV] would become a carbon copy of Moscow LifeNews, with all the ensuing developments. The schedule, working methods, content, goals and objectives all changed overnight. We were increasingly asked to cover accidents, car crashes, murders, suicides.”
Since the start of the Ukraine crisis, increased pressure to change editorial policies in favour of the government has resulted in a number of high profile resignations and firings from some of the country’s top news outlets, stoking concern for the future of independent-minded media in the country.
Remarking on the change of focus in the newsroom, former 100TV correspondent Oleg Kuzmichev told Rain that a previous commitment to cover important St Petersburg news and events has been replaced by a desire for “grusome, tabloid” stories.
“The new Moscow leadership is interested in stories when someone injures his head and gets thrown out of a window,” Kuzmichev said. “At the same time, the really important events in St Petersburg that relate to most people get no coverage.”
Launched in 2009 by Gabrelyanov’s father, Asholt Gabrelyanov, LifeNews has earned a reputation for sensationalist coverage and its anti-American stance.