Q: What is happening to the “Echo”?
A: Happening? Maybe I missed something?
Q: Probably. I’m going to tell you now.
A: Being in the 10th year of my editorship, I do not see anything special.
Q: Dorenko left.
A: He did.
Q: Novodvorskaya is banned.
A: She is.
Q: Osokin left from RTVi to REN TV.
A: He got a real job. He probably considered fairly that those small 5-minute-long news on RTVi did not correspond to his rank. He got disinterested in that. To make a full-fledged informational channel, it takes broadcasting opportunities on the whole Russia. We don’t have it.
Q: As far as I understand, Ganapolsky is leaving “Echo”. When and why?
A: Matvei is going to abroad with his family for a year. He says he wants to take a rest and gain strength. However, he does not disappear from the air in Echo Moskvy. First, one week a month he will be doing short units in turn with Buntman, Orekh, and Shenderovich. Second, he will be anchoring an hour-long program from Italy about gadgets. Third, he is starting a blog at the Echo website. Matvei is our man, it’s no easy to leave Echo Moskvy for good – we have a long arm!
As for Dorenko, it’s not the first time he leaves. (first time he left in summer and then returned. Now he left to head the “Russkaya slujba novostei” – N.R). Novodvorskaya is banned for the first time. Banned also are some other persons. We do not mention that, but they know it. A month ago banned was Dugin. That’s the whole story. Nothing special. And instead of Dorenko there will be Vasily Utkin. There is no hole on the air. Echo Moskvy is getting renewed.
Q: There is no Novodvorskaya but…
A: You wish to talk about Novodvorskaya? Go ahead.
Q: Along with that, there is Zhirinovsky on the air talking nonsense and Dorenko calling to ruining Chechnya with napalm…
A: I would note that he has always said so, he’s been consistent.
Q: And there was an interview with Potkin…
A: Yes, he was at “Klinch” with someone.
Q: Isn’t he a fascist?
A: I would not use such words. I call “fascists” those people who establish racial superiority with fire and sword. Such was definition by the Nierenberg Court. That’s not a system of opinions, that’s a system of actions. Or appeals to actions, as I see it. As for Novodvorskaya, respecting her courage, integrity, adherence to her principles, fearlessness and unmercineriness, I still cannot accept that someone explain that Basaev is a democrat at the radio where I am an editor. I just cannot allow that. Why? You may take it as a whim by the tyrant.
Q: And Zhirinovsky is not banned.
A: No, he isn’t. First, he is the vice speaker at the Duma.
Q: So he can say anything?
A: Yes, he can. However, I did not hear him say that Basaev is a democrat. I did not hear anyone praise the man who took part in seizure of the maternity hospital and who organized Beslan and Nord-Ost. I don’t remember such people appear on the air of Echo Moskvy! (Getting agitated). That’s a unique case! Whatever the attitude by anyone were towards the problems of independence of Chechnya and towards separatists and terrorists, no one has ever dared to say that the man who had been organizing all that since early ‘90s (including hijacking of aircraft and participation in Abkhazian battalion), no one ever said this man is a democrat.
Q: I can understand this logic, but it’s only Novodvorskaya to have been banned.
A: She was the only one to say that, and she is the only one to be banned. If someone else says something like that, he or she will be sent to take a breath of fresh air. Two friends of mine got killed in Nord-Ost. Why do I have to put up with that? In our radio such words are spoken about Putin and Medvedev. It’s Shenderovich, Latynina, Albats and Parkhomenko to say that - and no problems. That’s political struggle. As for Novodvorskaya, you may consider it that I just misunderstood.
Q: And what has changed for Echo Moskvy at Medvedev?
A: Nothing. We are professional radio station. Medvedev is the 6th President I work at, counting Rutskoi and Yanaev. We are doing our professional work. Do you think that when a new president comes in office something changes in the working by a carpenter, teacher or doctor? There are certain principles and fundamentals of the profession…
Q: But working by a carpenter or a teacher does not touch the authority to the quick.
Q: And the authority does not react, and carpenters and teachers are not slain.
A: I reckon, the matter is not about Medvedev. The matter is about the war going on in the Caucasus. And under conditions of war, like it was under conditions of taking hostages, the authority’s reaction is too nervous, as well as that by listeners and journalists. It had been for long that my news anchor people cried on the air. And this time they did! I know that’s unprofessional, but I cannot blame them for that. Same things happened when there was Budenovsk, Beslan or Nord-Ost. I remember all that, I have gone through all that. My task as the editor-in-chief was to minimize losses and secure that journalists did their job professionally and to explain to the authority why we work so and to talk to my listeners…Who else, being an editor-in-chief, would explain why this or that guest is banned? And I explain it eternally, so that they understood my logic. And who else should decide all that? Voting on the website? Voting by journalists?
Q: A call from the Administration, as it happens sometimes.
A: I don’t know how it happens. When Dorenko appeared, and then Shenderovich, there were no calls, there were lunches and dinners. I was told there “Leysha, why do you need this?” And I always responded “I need it for myself”. They in the Administration and in the White House know perfectly my logic and understand it. I can repeat it again: It’s been 18 years that Echo Moskvy exists under conditions of opposing to the authority. The authority has to bear us, as we are a professional radio. Was there any call about Dugin, or Barkashov? There was nothing. It’s me to take decisions. This is my radio and I am responsible for it. I get my reputation or I lose my reputation. I shall not be hiding myself behind someone’s backs and I shall not be referring to some secret enemies of Novodvorskaya in the Kremlin. I’m a big boy and I respect myself enough not to be tied to someone’s chariot.
Q: Do I get it right that now Gazprombank, the stockholder of Echo Moskvy, is owned by someone from Kovalchuk family?
A: I don’t know it, and I am not interested in it. I’ve always said that it’s the Kremlin to be my shareholder. There have been no changes in my discourse with the shareholders. Nikolai Yurievich Senkevich is the shareholder’s representative at Echo Moskvy. He is also the chairman of board of directors. There have been no changes in the board during last 5 years. And last time we reelected the board in the same personal composition, that has been working during last two or three years.
Q: And is there anything that Echo Moskvy lacks?
A: Echo Moskvy has everything.
Q: There are more competitors coming.
A: God help them! Professionalism is what really matters. Informational service, anchormen, and moderators of discussions – everyone must work professionally and with absolutely different opinions. The war has revealed those difficult points. The argument is going on not only in the corridors, but also on the air, between staff journalists. But everything is done professionally.
Q: Frankly speaking, as a consumer, it’s difficult to listen to girls on the morning air.
A: Well, I can say honestly that Echo Moskvy is a difficult radio. The radio that saddles.
Q: No! It’s difficult to listen to them exactly because it seems they do not get ready for the air.
A: They do. But this is their part, this is a role play. The morning air is made like this – the main man and the “girls” around him. That’s a kind of harem! Just read a book about everyday life of a khan’s harem, and you will understand everything! That’s a specially made up story. They do not have the rights of anchor people. This is just a format I invented and I insist on it.
Q: Is it justified?
A: Well, if we managed to get to the top positions within three years, I think it is justified.
Q: During this recent war have you been shocked with information or with some journalist’s work?
A: Not specially. I was shocked with some events, and not with my colleagues’ working.
Q: Have journalists got used to working under such conditions?
A: Events bring emotional shock. I have repeatedly, at Boris Yeltsin and at Vladimir Putin, spoken against shooting at Grozny. And similarly I spoke against shooting at Tskhinvali. I have the right to say that Saakashvili has committed a crime. I said that a president has no right to attack his city even when it gets rioted. Why should I advocate for someone else’s president when I criticized my president! On the morning of 8 August I said on the air that my attitude has always been like that. Of course, the shock is that all that is still possible to happen in Europe in the 21st century.
Q: And did the West make you surprised?
A: What could it surprise me with? I observe how these or those forces act. I only shrug shoulders when I don’t understand something. Then I ask specialists. During the recent war I have talked much with militaries, asking them why we did this or that and why we bombed the airport in Gori. Militaries showed their logic and politicians showed theirs.
Q: it was done during private conversations, not on the Echo’s air?
A: Who would reveal such things on the Echo’s air! I’m not confused with that, I need to get my own comprehension. I am a journalist. I try to understand the arguments by Russian, Georgian, Ossetian, French, and Abkhazian sides. I try to combine all that in the radio station. You know that different people give their views on the air.
Q: Don’t you think that too many journalists give their different views on the air? I understand why it happens – there are few charismatic politicians, and the politicians do not explain things. However, journalists are no specialists.
A: That’s true. When militaries take decisions, they must not consider political consequences. When politicians take decisions, they may take the opinion by militaries into account, or they may not. And the journalist is a synthesizer. He represents separately what is spoken by militaries, politicians, opposition and experts. Only journalists can gather all those opinions for the public sphere.
Q: In the program “Osoboe mnenie”? (fittingly, Separate Opinion)
A: This program is made to fit journalists, not observers or participants. The practice shows that an expert is always a participant. He is either a former military or a party member. This is why this program is made to fit people who do not take decisions and do not give obligatory advices. These are most free people, who speak on their own behalf, not on behalf of groups, parties, editorial boards or corporate institutions. When it’s Pozner or Shevchenko, Albats or Prokhanov to come to us, those are people who speak only in their individual capability. And each of them represents some part of the public opinion. I believe that my listeners get the whole range of opinions existing within the society, maybe with the exception of most radical ones. That’s deliberate editorial policy.
Q: But the public opinion is represented unevenly. “Osoboe mnenie” is presented by people who have access to all the media and by those who only have a couple of media opportunities.
A: I do not care about that. What I care about is the listeners of Echo Moskvy. They are not obliged to read this or that newspaper or watch this or that TV station, but they must get the opinion by a well-known journalist.
Q: What will be changed in Echo Moskvy?
A: We are starting a new program dedicated to migration issues. It will be dealing with different kinds of migration in our country – working, family. That will be an instructive educational program made under conditions of the world moving. We will be working with the federal migration service, with psychologists. I stake a lot at this program this year.
We will have a program, a paraphrase of Yuri Luzhkov. We are ironical guys: he has the program “Litsom k gorodu” (fittingly, Face to the city), and ours will be titled “Gorod za spinoi” (City behind your back). The program will be consisting of interviews with the mayors of different cities, big and small ones. Russian mayors have got interested in that very much. We have already recorded an interview with the mayor of Monaco. It turns out that Monaco has not only Prince Albert, but also a mayor! By the way, he came to the interview on a bicycle so that to avoid parking troubles. We have reached agreement with the London’s mayor. We want to show that problems may be same in Birmingham, Tver or Vladivostok.
I have arranged with Kirill Kleimenov that he allowed Dima Borisov (anchorman from the Pervy TV station, former Echo Moskvy employee –N.R) to anchor with Sasha Plyushchev a program with a working title “Ya fanat” (I am the fan) where coming will be idols of the 21st century from show business and from sport.
In December we shall start a series of programs dedicated to Stalin. An academic conference will be held in the country dedicated to the topic, organized by Rospen Publishing House and by Yeltsin’s Fund. We shall be discussing the role played by Stalin in our country’s history. The program will be anchored by Natella Boltyanskaya. We shall talk, for example, about Golodomor in Ukraine and Russia in the ‘30s of the last century.
All those are important programs. However, they do not change the Echo’s concept. Echo Moskvy remains a ground for discussions where opinions are given. We do not change anything, despite the crazy competition with the Internet that has become the main source of the news.