As the ruble has been crashing through the floor the past couple days, Petersburg Channel 5 wanted its viewers focused on what really matters: the allegedly rampant eating of dog and cat meat in “civilized” (wink, wink, sneer, sneer) Switzerland.
Broadcast and posted on December 15, the story‘s headline, above, reads: “Furry farm. In Switzerland, they want to ban Christmas meals of cat and dog [meat]. On the eve of Christmas, they want to ban residents of Switzerland [from eating] one of the national holiday dishes. It turns out that the civilized Swiss are not averse to treating themselves to the meat of pets.”
The piece ends with a warning that cat and dog flesh aren’t “national holiday dishes” only in Switzerland. This form of barbarism is also a problem—you guessed it—in Ukraine.
Meanwhile, back in the realm of news that would matter to Petersburgers who haven’t lost their minds, as late as yesterday afternoon (December 16), Channel 5 was claiming the ruble had gone on a “counterattack” yesterday morning.
Apparently, this tactic of downplaying the real news has been the pattern in other Russian mainstream news outlets:
While the ruble collapsed 10 percent on Monday, making headlines around the world, some Russians may have been unaware of the recent intensification of their currency’s woes.
A prime-time news bulletin broadcast by state-owned Channel One at 9 p.m. on Monday only featured a short segment on the currency drop — the fifth item on the news program — after reports about the terrorist attack in Australia, the killing of a terrorist suspect by law enforcement authorities in Russia and two announcements by President Vladimir Putin on military parades and construction targets.
When the report on the ruble was shown it blamed the decline in value on the falling price of oil —despite the ruble’s fall being significantly sharper Monday than that of Brent crude and actually starting against the background of strengthening oil prices.
The apparent unwillingness of Russian state-owned media to give airtime to the ruble’s troubles — particularly among television channels, which are traditionally much more tightly controlled by the Kremlin — likely reflects the political sensitivity of the issue, and a desire to avoid fueling panic.
Most Russians get their news from state television, which has closely mirrored Putin’s anti-American rhetoric during the Ukraine crisis.
In a popular sleight of hand, state-owned news outlets have preferred to phrase ruble falls in recent months as euro or dollar rises. “Western currencies gained in value at breakneck speed all day Monday,” one report on state-controlled NTV read late Monday.
The Central Bank’s emergency overnight decision to raise interest rates to 17 percent was reported by most major television channels Tuesday morning, but in many cases was quickly pushed down the news agenda by reports of snap military drills in Russia’s western Kaliningrad region.
—Howard Amos, “Russian State Media Downplays Extent of Ruble Crisis,” The Moscow Times, December 16, 2014
Thanks to SC for the heads-up on the Swiss dog meat story.