Changing Channels

Television and the Struggle for Power in Russia

Changing Channels

Book Pages: 408 Illustrations: 33 b&w photographs, 8 tables Published: September 1999

European Studies > Eastern Europe and Russia, Media Studies > TV, Politics > Political Science

New in paperback
Revised and expanded

During the tumultuous 1990s, as Russia struggled to shed the trappings of the Soviet empire, television viewing emerged as an enormous influence on Russian life. The number of viewers who routinely watch the nightly news in Russia matches the number of Americans who tune in to the Super Bowl, thus making TV coverage the prized asset for which political leaders intensely—and sometimes violently—compete. In this revised and expanded edition of Changing Channels, Ellen Mickiewicz provides many fascinating insights, describing the knowing ways in which ordinary Russians watch the news, skeptically analyze information, and develop strategies for dealing with news bias.
Covering the period from the state-controlled television broadcasts at the end of the Soviet Union through the attempted coup against Gorbachev, the war in Chechnya, the presidential election of 1996, and the economic collapse of 1998, Mickiewicz draws on firsthand research, public opinion surveys, and many interviews with key players, including Gorbachev himself. By examining the role that television has played in the struggle to create political pluralism in Russia, she reveals how this struggle is both helped and hindered by the barrage of information, advertisements, and media-created personalities that populate the airwaves. Perhaps most significantly, she shows how television has emerged as the sole emblem of legitimate authority and has provided a rare and much-needed connection from one area of this huge, crisis-laden country to the next.
This new edition of Changing Channels will be valued by those interested in Russian studies, politics, media and communications, and cultural studies, as well as general readers who desire an up-to-date view of crucial developments in Russia at the end of the twentieth century.


Changing Channels has become the definitive work on the role of television in Russia’s tumultuous transformation from a former Soviet republic to fledgling democracy. . . . [It] offers a vivid, fascinating window into how Russians judiciously navigate their way through systemic media biases, how politicans attempt to use television to advance pluralist political ends, and how market forces have penetrated television broadcasts.” — Harvard International Journal of Press/Politics

“Ellen Mickiewicz . . . once again has proved herself to be not only an excellent historian but a superb narrator. Nobody is better equipped to produce this analysis. . . . Her book is particularly important because at the chaotic end of the Soviet Union, as she notes, television was just about the only institution left standing.” — Bernard Redmont , Television Quarterly

“Ellen Mickiewicz is rightly considered the field’s premier specialist on the politics of Soviet and Russian television . . . . Changing Channels provides a first-rate descriptive account of the politics of television from the Soviet Union to Russia . . . . [A]n excellent case study of institutional change . . . .” — Gerald Easter , Slavic Review

“Mickiewicz was on the scene—feverishly gathering, challenging, and documenting countless bits of information, taking her own photographs, and weaving everything into a lively and alternately anecdotal, investigative, and interpretive story that makes for fascinating reading. The result: one of the most important books to date on the role of television in the political process.” — J. A. Lent , Choice

“The preeminent strength of Mickiewicz’s account lies in her access, virtually unparalleled for other U. S.-based researchers, to interviews with many of the key players in the enormous drama that played itself out in the Soviet transition. . . . Again and again she is able to shed fascinating light on decision taken or not taken from interviews with the principals involved. . . . There is no other book on the subject that takes the reader inside the Russian television process in the same graphic way. Mickiewicz’s writing style is lucid and inviting.” — John D. H. Downing , Journal of Communication

“[A] deep and detailed look at a long and occasionally fatal obsession with television’s power on the part of Russia’s political leaders.” — Ron Aldridge, Publisher & Editorial Director, Electronic Media

“A riveting look at the political struggle for control of television [in] the Soviet Union. . . . The policy debates detailed in Changing Channels have universal application to our digital communications future. They are explained with skill and competence by an author who is intimately acquainted with both the issues and the people involved.” — Bruce Christensen, former President and CEO of PBS

“An important and fascinating story, elegantly told by Ellen Mickiewicz.” — Stephen Hess, author of International News & Foreign Correspondents

“For those who care about Russia’s stormy evolution from dictatorship to democracy, here is an important story—the first extensive account of the crucially important revolution in Moscow television since 1985.” — Hedrick Smith, author of The New Russians

“From the days when Leonid Brezhnev clung to power through the tumult of Mikhail Gorbachev and the election victories of Boris Yeltsin, Russian leaders have struggled over the control of television. In this fine and penetrating book, Ellen Mickiewicz traces those struggles and examines the larger question still ahead: whether a free and independent television can emerge that will bolster prospects for a stable, democratic nation. No one else has better captured this important saga.” — David Gergen, Editor at Large, U.S. News & World Report

“It is difficult to imagine a more fair and thorough chronicle of television’s role in Russia’s ongoing evolution.” — Phil Kloer, TV critic, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“This book will enthrall and enlighten its readers with its vivid revelations of political stratagems by politicians and journalists. . . . This is a definitive study, based on lengthy interviews with the movers and shakers in the world of politics and television by a brilliant participant/observer of the momentous changes-in-the-making.” — Doris A. Graber, University of Illinois at Chicago

“When Ellen Mickiewicz combines her years of on-scene experience, range of contacts, academic credentials, and writing skill to address the subject of media power in Russia, the result makes must reading for anyone interested in today’s Russian power struggle—or the central role of media control in every society.” — Nicholas Johnson, former Commissioner, U.S. Federal Communications Commission


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Ellen Mickiewicz is James R. Shepley Professor of Public Policy Studies and Director of the DeWitt Wallace Center for Communications and Journalism at Duke University. She is the author of numerous articles and books, including Split Signals: Television and Politics in the Soviet Union.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Preface to Revised and Enlarged Edition ix

Preface xi

Television: The Prize 3

Soviet Television Rulers and Their Empire 23

Closely Watched Targets: The Nightly News, the Military, and Lenin 52

Pushing the Envelope: Reforming from Within 65

Viewers and Voters: The First Competitive Elections and the Rise of Alternative News 83

Television and Crisis: The End of Soviet Rule 98

Between Putsch and Revolt 109

Pictures, Parties, and Leaders: Television and Elections in the New Russia 135

Room for Views: Television and the Play of Controversial Positions 190

The Media Market: Politics, Commerce, and Press Freedom 217

Television at War: Private Television News Under Fire 242

Changing Channels on the Most Powerful Medium 264

Afterword 274

Notes 305

Chronology 351

Index 355
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-2463-8
Publicity material