Fewer conspiracy theories: Belarus TV station takes break from Russia’s REN TV shows

How did reptilians create the World Government? Why is the Earth flat? Why do Russians have the most powerful weapons? The shows about conspiracy theories and scandals which the Russian television station Ren TV releases en masse have been removed from Belarusian airwaves for now.

Belarus’ Metropolitan Television (CTV) has changed its broadcasting grid and promises to make more information and entertainment products on their own. Films and television series are expected to be shown instead of Russian-made Secrets of Anna Chapman, Mysteries of Mankind and Military Secrets. Although a TV guide remained the same on the REN TV website, their Belarusian partner CTV removed Russian programs from their broadcasts. The official reason for such a step is New Year holidays. And, ‘in response to public demand’, there will be more Belarusian-made content starting from the next week.

“The amount of Russian programs will be reduced. Similar content based on Belarusian realities will replace them. It is not about the complete substitution – the most interesting Russian programs will remain,” said the press secretary of the CTV Iryna Khanunik-Rambalskaya.

Belsat TV has failed to get in touch the press service of REN TV, because they are having a holiday break. As for Belarusians, their opinions are divided.

“It is good they have removed those absurdist shows, but on the other hand, one should not ban them. Let people watch them if anyone would like to,” a resident of Minsk believes.

“One should not deprive people of information from our brotherly Russia,” another Minsker said.

REN TV is a TV channel that is involved in disinformation and propaganda, representatives of the EAST centre say. In December the researchers published the results of their work which is part of a large study of 14 countries in Central and Eastern Europe on their resistance to disinformation.

“TV channels are the most obvious window through which unverified, unreliable, ideology-driven information can reach the Belarusian society,” Alyaksandr Papko, an expert at the EAST, says.

In respect to REN TV, there is also a question of law. “It is not on the list of 200 TV stations that are allowed to broadcast in the territory of Belarus,” Papko stresses.

The channel above does not broadcast in Belarus, it is simply rebroadcast by CTV. Until recently, 2/3 of the content on the Belarusian air was produced in Russia. Series, films, news were purchased from Moscow for old friendship’s sake. However, the need for greater TV independence has arisen due to Russian TV information attacks on the Belarusian authorities.

“Now there are many different products on the media market, there are programs made by small Russian and Ukrainian TV channels, there is an opportunity to create Belarusian products. Everything depends on the availability of money,” Pavel Bykouski, a media expert from Minsk, says.

According to a number of media experts, the recent changes on CTV might be a test of the information battlefield in the run-up to the reforms on other state-run TV channels in Belarus.

Yaraslau Stseshyk

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