Broadcasting Agitainment: A New Media Strategy of Putin's Third Presidency

Vera Tolz, Yuri Teper

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This article argues that accounts of the Russian media system that tend to view the time from Vladimir Putin’s rise to power in 2000 as a single homogenous period do not capture major qualitative shifts in state-controlled media strategies and in the nature of ideological messages disseminated by the media. By analyzing the output of Russia’s two main television channels, Pervyi Kanal and Rossiya-1, during Putin’s third presidential term we identify a range of distinctly new features that amount to a new media strategy. In particular, the amount of coverage of political issues has increased significantly through the replacement of infotainment with what we term agitainment—an ideologically inflected political coverage that, through adapting specific global media formats to local needs, is packaged in a way that is able to appeal to less engaged and even sceptical viewers. Our findings challenge existing literature on neo-authoritarian media systems. They show that when struggling for control over the public agenda, neo-authoritarian regimes start employing extensive and intensive ideological messaging, rather than preferring a largely de-politicized content. In the Russian context, despite the tightening of political control over the media, particularly following the annexation of Crimea, the new strategy paradoxically has strengthened the constitutive role played by the state-controlled broadcasters in the articulation of official discourse.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)213-227
Number of pages15
JournalPost-Soviet Affairs
Issue number4
Early online date9 Apr 2018
Publication statusPublished - 9 Apr 2018


  • Putin’s third presidential term
  • Russian media system
  • agitainment
  • neo-authoritarian regime


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