Only about 10% of Russian television workers support the war in Ukraine and believe that Russia is «exterminating Nazis» there. The head of a major Russian TV channel, speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Insider that if any of the countries could offer journalists «acceptable conditions and prospects,» the flow of resignations and subsequent emigration of state media employees would increase manifold.
Mass resignations of propagandists began after the incident with Marina Ovsyannikova, an editor for Channel One, who burst into the studio with an anti-war banner on live television, and the public announcement of the departure of NTV's host Lilia Gildeeva, who had been working for the channel since 2006. Some employees of state-owned and state-controlled TV channels (in fact, only those channels haven't been blocked) have not quit their jobs but have refused to cover the war in Ukraine. In particular, Maria Gladkikh, Rossiya 24's news anchor, and Stanislav Kulik, Moskva 24's anchor, refused to work on camera after Russia started its war against Ukraine.
The head of a Russian TV channel told The Insider that many TV employees are «trying to stay out of trouble,» and that »everyone understands everything.»
«Everyone is looking for some options, but not like Ovsyannikova, not just going on the air. This is a kind of Italian-Russian strike where everyone stays put but tries not to get involved in this thing. With that said, you have toadmit the media managers have been going along with it, because every one of them also understands everything.
People don't want to get involved, they don't want to get blood and shit on their hands. Our whole announcements department said they're not going to work with that shit. In fact, they've invented some contrived and artificial reasons for keeping their jobs: they make some «ID pieces» or some videos unrelated to the military operation.
I do not have a supervisor assigned to me for giving me orders. Recently it's become normal in Russia when people on the ground have to scan the ether for signals, in a contextual sense, and then follow them. Some of the Kremlin's or Presidential Administration's guidelines that are being dispatched may reach the Big Three, but they don't trickle down to the smaller channels. As a General Producer, I can tell you I've never seen those guidelines with my own eyes.
People have to make guesses by what Simonyan said last night. You need a special perception to snatch a signal from the surrounding ether. There's also a kind of self-censorship, and a sense of self-preservation comes into play. I attend meetings and I see that people know exactly what they can and cannot do. More often than not, it's a self-preservation instinct, not a propaganda binge.
There are three categories of people who work in niche television. The first category is the technocratic type who just do their job, that's all: «Leave me alone, this is my line of work, I do it but I'm not in too deep. I get paid and that's it.» That's the vast majority of them, nearly 70%. Another 10% are just die-hards who say, »onwards, squash them.»And another 20% are those who are strongly opposed to what is happening in Ukraine. That's the way I see it.
It is very difficult to leave the country and go somewhere else. We're planning to move to Yerevan. And it will be a huge drop - not only in salary but also in creative ambitions. Nevertheless, I am going to do it anyway, because it is impossible to work like that anymore.
If, for instance, Poland were to say now: «We would take all Russian journalists who want to quit federal TV and give them visas and help them for a while,» that would be a philosophers' steamboat all over again, but only for journalists. If only some acceptable conditions, good prospects, and a job were on offer. There is an overallparalyzing sense of uncertainty. There is a VGTRKpresenter who with very liberal views. She tried to get a US visa but they wouldn't let her. As soon as she says VGTRK, the doors get slammed in her face.
I can already recognize those among the journalists who look like hostages. The West thinks they are accomplices, and they think they are hostages. It's important for the West to understand this, because journalists feel they will be denied admission and cancelled. If you've been doing this for a very long time, you have practically no choice; you must carry on, there's nowhere else to go, they won't accept you. I know a therapist who works with journalists, and he writes he has to prescribe an unbelievable amount of serotonin reuptake inhibitors, i.e. antidepressants, because a lot of people feel that way. I've noticed I've been drinking a lot more myself.»