Russia's largest television network, the state-run RTR, is coming to the United States with a Russian-language TV channel. New York City, home of the largest Russian immigrant community in the United States, will account for a significant portion of the channel's audience.
RTR, the largest television company in the Russian Federation, teamed up with the U.S.-based Russian Media Group to launch the new Russian channel, called "RTR Planeta". Head of the Media Group, Mark Golub, says the channel will reach at least a third of the three million Russian-speakers currently living in the United States. "This is a national Russian language television channel, from Russia, coming to America featuring cultural programming. It would be as if the best of PBS was suddenly available to Americans living abroad. It is a historic development not only for them, but in terms of Russian American cultural relations," he says.
In 1991, Mr. Golub created the first daily Russian language channel in the United States, bringing Russian television to the large Russian immigrant population in Brooklyn, New York. That channel went off the air in 1997, but Mr. Golub says his work there set the stage for his current deal with RTR.
With its 89 affiliated stations, RTR reaches audiences across Russia.
New York-based Russians like Anna Malova are thrilled about the arrival of Planeta in the city. Ms. Malova was a runner-up in the Miss Universe Pageant in 1998, and has lived in New York ever since.
She says as much as she loves living in America, she misses home. Television is one of the ways she keeps in touch. "I miss Russian culture. I have old traditions inside of me. I don't see my parents enough," she says. "At least if I can see Russian television, and hear it, be more exposed to what's going on right there not from American news, or what friends tell me, it's so much fun to just enjoy it."
Ms. Malova says that, although satellite television has provided Russians living in the United States with some Russian programming over the years, it has not always been the best her country has to offer. "They show kind of serials and soap operas, so it's not really television. It will be great to see something real, a government channel that comes to the United States," she says.
Viacheslav Pavlovskiy is the Russian Federation's Consul General in New York. He says Russian television has come a long way since the fall of communism, and that he will be pleased to see more of it in the United States. "Personally, I never have enough. I would like to see as many channels as possible," he says. "We have learned how to make television, and we have a variety of channels. All of them are of great interest. So I am very happy that RTR is coming to America."
Mr. Pavlovskiy says it reminds him of the excitement he felt seeing U.S. programming in Russia for the first time, in the years immediately following the fall of communism.