16 January 2011

Russian Channel Surfing

3803 KM type tower in Sochi

Image via Wikipedia

Sochi TV Tower on the Black Sea


I didn’t come to Russia to watch TV! 

True, but television is the largest use of free time in America and Russia.  The Nielsen Report of 3 Jan 11 says Americans watch 34 hours a week.  I figure Russians exceed that number.

The survey reports that 2/3 of Americans watch TV while eating dinner.  It’s hard to instill family values with an ever-on TV.  If you also allow telephone interruptions, tranquility will not visit your table often.

But television can be a comfort. After reading and the internet, it can be a shared activity to enjoy for a few hours in the evening.

Awkward TV listings...

We receive thirty channels, half from free introductory cable. We get TV listings in the weekly newspaper Argumenty E Facty, or buy one of the TV magazines. 

Each station has its own column... with the viewing times written separately for each... awkward and redundant for an American used to all channels listed together around one time entry.  To compare what’s on it’s necessary to scan many columns.

If someone gets frustrated with inefficient TV listings, they might make a Russian gesture...Put the right hand behind the neck and pull the left ear lobe.

Russian and American censorship...

With one quiet exception, TV stations are owned or controlled by the government, so you can expect them to be less candid than the newspapers. 

In the USA most channels are owned by corporations which have some control over the news. Journalists at times observe political correctness, and steer away from taboos and  contoversy about  topics such as the Holocaust, who was behind the WTC attack, the causes of the Iraq War. 

Wherever you are in the world, it’s OK to be ‘concerned’ and ‘wonder’ about things, but don’t be too specific with your thoughts.

Daytime programming...

The main channels are Television One and Rossiya,  Larissa sometimes watches shows about health and fashion make-overs. The late afternoon has a 200-series soap opera about a girl’s academy in tsarist times.  Earlier this year we watched many episodes of Carmelita, about gypsies, Roma, living and singing  in Krasnodar Krai near the Black Sea. 

Evening fare...

Then it’s quiet until Pust Gavoreet, Have Your Say.  The presenter looks different each night, reflecting how varied the subject can be.  It could be an emotional youth/adult problem... about the career of a beloved celebrity... or about the Russian New York students jailed for their part in a computer bank scam.

Russian programs are not brief...

Russians spend a lot of time cooking, waiting in line, sitting at the table, giving speeches, and watching TV!

What in America would be a nightly one hour drama here will last two or more hours starting on a Sunday and continuing  Monday through Thursday for two weeks.  TV doesn’t follow a strict pattern of starting on the hour.

If a movie is broadcast, you will see the complete movie.  There’s a more casual attitude about fitting it into the schedule. 

Drama and comedy after 9...

These dramas can be good.  I like the introductory music and themes. Russian musical ability shines through. They often have a predictable but magnetic story of someone leaving Moscow for the village, or the reverse, and how romance and danger affects all!

We enjoyed a good comedy about the grandparents of a little girl.  They follow her to the Crimean seashore and have a lot of typical Russian escapades. 

Getting drunk is still considered good humor, and smoking is a typical male activity.

Skating, free cable, and many concerts...

In dancing or skating shows, time is devoted to introductions,  practice clips, judges’ comments, and interviews by presenters.  Add commercial time, and performing is a small part of the show.

Russians also use the word concert to describe a comedy variety show.

Our 30 channels include Discovery, Russian MTV, and stations for  wildlife, classic American movies, war films, sports, and cartoons.  Kulture channel has quality concerts, as well as old Soviet films.

Many concerts throughout the year...

There are music concerts for many observances , such as the annual day for police, submariners, even for tax inspectors.

These concerts can be gaudy with no limits on flashiness,  lighting or garish staging. The people involved have trouble knowing when to stop adding more, and the result can be trashy, especially when a singer has many dancers doing interpretations around him.  You won’t see much subtlety.

Around New Years many channels have music concerts... especially from establishment singers, called Estrada.  Russians like to work as a group, such as this clique... a loose collection of 50 – 100 entertainers, some of whom date from Soviet times. 

Less advertising allowed

Wikipedia indicates that advertising on Russian TV is limited to 8 minutes 30 seconds each hour.  In contrast, Americans have 18 minutes of commercial time each television hour!  Ads here are played at normal volume.

Since September 2004, the government has required that beer commercials show no cartoons or people, so instead one manufacturer made a montage of beer bottles. 

There are advertisements for natural remedies and also for what Americans call over-the-counter and prescription drugs.  (Here there is no prescription category as almost everything is available without a doctor’s script.)  The claims made on TV are too absolute and therefore misleading.

Which television system is better?

In New Jersey and Russia I have considered television  a low priority activity. TV here is so different, I can’t really say which is better.  But just as in New Jersey, I’m still having trouble finding the remote!

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Two top articles

Russian TV Channel Guide by Anton at Moscow Russia Insider’s Guide.  Be sure to check his other pages!

Television and Health  Statistics from A.C. Nielsen about American viewers.



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