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An employee at state-owned Channel One in Russia recently interrupted a live news broadcast to protest the war in Ukraine.
Multiple experts say there are live news broadcasts and other live events on Russian TV.
A former employee of the station said that all Channel One news is live. An expert we spoke with said that’s because of the country’s many time zones.
A producer working for Channel One, a Russian-owned news channel, recently made headlines for staging a protest against her country’s invasion of Ukraine on the station’s evening live newscast.
Marina Ovsyannikova walked out behind a news anchor on the show Vremya on March 14, shouting, "Stop the war. No to war," according to the Guardian. She held a sign with words written in English and Russian. It was signed, "Russians against the war."
Ovsyannikova was hailed as a hero by many for her open display of opposition to the war less than two weeks after Russia enacted a new law that could punish anyone deemed to be spreading "false information" about the invasion to 15 years in prison.
Ovsyannikova so far has avoided a harsh sentence. She was interrogated for 14 hours, she said, and fined about $270, not for her on-air protest, but for a prerecorded video she filmed where she apologized for helping spread Russian propaganda on the network, according to The New York Times.
But some on social media are saying Ovsyannikova’s protest was staged and amounted to just another propaganda effort in the battle for public opinion over the war. It couldn’t have been real, they say, because there are no live TV broadcasts in Russia. But that isn’t true, experts told PolitiFact.
"There are no live on air television broadcasts in Russia. None. Ever," read a March 15 Facebook post. Because there are no live broadcasts, the post said, Russia staged the protest to distract attention and to get people talking about the "good Russians."
This post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)
Several experts we spoke with said there are regular live news and other broadcasts on Russian television.
Farida Rustamova, an independent journalist who writes about Russian issues on her substack page, said many broadcasts, including news shows, sports, speeches by Russian President Vladimir Putin and other events are shown live. Rustamova is one of many Russian journalists who have recently fled the country after the government’s crackdown on free speech.
She said her sources who work for state TV told her that the news is still being broadcast live, but in response to Ovsyannikova’s protest, there now may be a delay of 30 seconds to a minute.
"On various shows on their top channels, I've seen some of the hosts stumble (one fell)," she wrote to PolitiFact in an email. "Sometimes there are curse words they have no time to bleep. All of the above would have been removed if the shows weren't actually streaming live."
Davis said on one live show she watched, producers forgot to cut the cameras during a commercial break.
"I could see the hosts interacting with guests," Davis said. "Again, that would have been removed if the show wasn’t streaming live. In fact, later uploads did not contain those mishaps."
Roman Badanin, a journalist from Russia who recently wrote for CNN about his experience leaving the country in 2021 due to the threat of arrest, also told PolitiFact that "most of the news shows," including on Channel One, "are broadcast live" in the country. Badanin is now a student at Stanford University.
One reason the news is broadcast live in Russia is that the country has so many time zones due to its large size, Rustamova said.
"This is why recording news in advance is pointless. Evening news in Vladivostok, the capital of the Far East, goes on the air at 9 p.m., when it is 1 p.m. in Moscow. It is impossible to repeat this issue in 8 hours to Moscow, as the news will become outdated. Therefore, the news is broadcast live to the Far East, Siberia and Moscow."
She said Ovsyannikova’s protest was only seen by viewers in Moscow and Central Russia.
Rustamova pointed us to an article on the news site DW that included an interview with Elena Afanasyeva, the former planning director of Channel One. Afanasyeva told DW that "All Channel One news is broadcast live," according to an English translation.
A Facebook post said that a Russian journalist’s protest during a state TV broadcast couldn’t be real because "there are no live on air television broadcasts in Russia. None. Ever."
But experts we spoke with, including journalists who have worked in Russia, said that is not true. There are many live broadcasts, including the news show that was interrupted by an employee’s protest. There has been no evidence presented that shows her actions were staged as part of a Russian propaganda effort.
We rate this claim False.
Email exchange with Julia Davis, Russian media analyst, March 17, 2022
Email exchange with Roman Badanin, a journalist from Russia, March 17, 2022
Email exchange with Scott Gehlbach, professor in the Department of Political Science and Harris School of Public Policy, at the University of Chicago, March 17, 2022
Email exchange with Farida Rustamova, independent journalist, March 17, 2022
Faridaily, "‘She never talked about politics’: Who is Russian TV employee who interrupted news broadcast," March 15, 2022
Reuters, "Anti-war protester in studio disrupts live Russian state TV news," March 15, 2022
The Washington Post, "Employee bursts onto live Russian state TV to denounce war: ‘They are lying to you here,’" March 14, 2022
CNN, "Marina Ovsyannikova: 'My life has changed irrevocably'," March 16, 2022
CBS Mornings, "Russian state TV employee interrupts live broadcast with anti-war sign," March 15, 2022
DW, "Ex-employee of Channel One: "Management probably did not think enough" March 16, 2022 (original article in Russian)
Atlantic Council, "Information fog surrounds Russian TV journalist who conducted on-air protest," March 16, 2022
The Guardian, "‘Her anger had been building’: Russian TV protester told friend of plan," March 15, 2022
The New York Times, "Russia Takes Censorship to New Extremes, Stifling War Coverage," March 4, 2022
The Washington Post, "Russia’s independent media, long under siege, teeters under new Putin crackdown," March 4, 2022
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