The fairytale story with inevitable introduction of 5Th Channel, broadcasting from St Petersburg, into other Russian regions up to Moscow, has come to its peak. Now St Petersburg has been finally deprived of its municipal television and 5th Channel has become irrevocably the federal one and got entitled to receiving state subsidies for spreading its broadcasting facilities to the towns with population less than 200,000 people. And in 2004, when the Channel announced its full renewal in connection to election of Valentina Matvienko as governor of St Petersburg, the city’s residents were solemnly promised that now it would become a really municipal television, fit with modern equipment and dedicated fully to one’s native town.
To achieve the set goals, first, almost all professional journalists were removed from the channel and replaced by young “talents” after a short and hastily done casting. The Channel’s management decided to refuse decisively any continuity and build up the new television from the ground up.
The results of such senseless hurry came to be noticeable very soon. “Young talents” appeared in the winning-looking red studio who couldn’t do professional things and who stammered on each word. They caused a pity with good-natured people while vicious tongues were suspecting of useless spending of big money. No one of those poor “early fruits” managed to stay on the 5th Channel until now. From its beginning, the broadcasting irritating too many St Petersburg journalists was obviously in need of the other level of competence.
The promised raising of rating didn’t come and it just couldn’t come. One could feel that the management of the new channel didn’t have creative or commercial objectives, only administrative ones. The new 5th Channel appeared out of the head of the administrative resource and it couldn’t be anything but the imitation of real television.
The game of imitating municipal television – where no city’s problems were discussed with the public participation – lasted about two years. Then 5th Channel, continuing its administrative development, won the competition entitling broadcasting to the regions. After that there was no room remaining for covering city’s life, as it was necessary to pass to the new “popular” range of topics, making the broadcasting clear and important for “mysterious” regions about which the management of the Channel have vague ideas.
The trouble is that regions don’t need television taken in the abstract and oriented to the average “region”. Regions either see big Moscow television with its stable, grasping and bright manner (there is no lack of such television) or they see their local television, clear and understandable, made by local journalists. It’s impossible to invent some “third kind” of television that would be interesting on the Volga, the Urals and Far East of Russia at the same time. And from the beginning 5th Channel refused elegiac “cultural specificity” in the spirit of St Petersburg. And this city could be interesting to the whole country exactly with its culture. But the management considered it to be outdated and unfitting the new style of the city. Old fashioned St Petersburg is also being taken down rapidly to replace it with the new vulgar city made from concrete, glass and metal and where flowers will be smelling and replacing the age-old trees.
The logotype of 5th Channel is not a white-blue angel, but confident red “5” in a yellow square. These are colors of the cheap supermarket selling expired foods. The colors are chosen not accidentally with such associations. Such is the general style, method and the essence of working by the Channel: aggressive conquering of TV space first of all. As for the sense and contents of broadcasting, it’s not urgent to be decided. Anyway, something will be found to fill the air time. And who is going to ask about that? Even if someone does, the special regulation will be issued saying that our television is just best. And the regulation will be signed by a person in highest position…
For above mentioned reasons 5th Channel doesn’t have normal grid. Where could it come from? Say, you may hate or despise NTV, but NTV has a grid. This channel knows what his format is and they can distinguish Tuesday from Friday. They know what must be shown at 6 p.m. and what is better to be shown at 11 p.m. The viewer will always find the things in their right places and will easily decide what to see and what to avoid. One might say that 5th Channel is very young and it will improve in the future. But those who saw the 5 of the times when it was “renewed” municipal television, they realize that Channel’s future is going to be same. The faults by this channel – which is abortive project by administrative resource - are innate and they are caused by incompetence added with high self-confidence and high aggressiveness which is usually characteristic of vigorous people who feel they cannot cope with their task commissioned.
Of course, you happen to see some interesting films on the channel: when you buy a packet of 100 movies, 20 out of them might be really interesting. And sometimes one may see interesting programs there, why not? But all that is lost inside inappropriate and unstructured broadcasting policy that has only one goal of conquering the room and is not interested in setting real creative or at least commercial objectives.
5th Channel is busy with inventing some universal topics for all regions of our country. But this provincially working thing came to the media market too late. The universal television has already been created and it is represented by such good professionals that looking at vain attempts by 5th channel one may only feel a pity. The news on 5th channel is boring and feature unclear comments and the screen is overwhelmed with text information. Inexpressive news anchoring staff sitting in the tastelessly painted studio can be of no competition to old “proved” federal channels. TV journalism is not an annual, informational service is grown in years and one needs to understand what it is about. It’s impossible to solve this problem only with money. Like a pretentious dilettante, 5th channel tries to imitate not one but all successful channels at once. It may alternate intimately-yellow talk shows, made in the style of the First Channel, with awful criminal vulgarity similar to that of NTV and then overfree youth stuff and nonsense may appear reminding of TNT. Meanwhile, the City of St Petersburg with 5-million population has no municipal television. With the exception of the Dialogues With the City by Valentina Matvienko there are no other socially significant programs in the city’s format that could inform, tell and discuss with people what is happening in the city.
So what was the purpose of this channel creation? Was it just to destroy informational space of St Petersburg so that no one and nowhere can ask “too dangerous” questions?
Many questions arise in connection with amazing extending of broadcasting range by 5th channel that – according to the recently published data – has lost even its previous rating in the native town where people under 30 years old practically don’t notice it. Here are the three main questions.
Question one. Where did the money come from and what was it spent for, being intended for modernization of the municipal television that became national in record short period? Didn’t it happen that taxpayers from St Petersburg paid from their pockets for… the absence of the city’s television?
Question two. Where are the archives of Leningrad television with performances, concerts, programs and interviews done during last 40-50 years? Who do they belong to and who is engaged in caring about them? This is the city’s history of the half century period. What can be grounds for passing all that to the channel for which the city’s interests are less important than its non-stop launching into the space and vicinities?
Question three. Will the time come when managing 5th channel will be commissioned to really competent people?