Please note, due to essential maintenance online transactions will not be possible between 09:00 and 13:00 BST, on Monday 20th January 2020 (04:00-08:00 EDT). We apologise for any inconvenience.
Winning elections is so vital for Russian leaders that competing viewpoints on national television news channels have been scotched, together with the channels that broadcast them. This study examines the other side of the screen: how participants in focus groups in four Russian cities process national channels' treatments of an important regional electoral campaign. The study was conducted during the last period in which viewpoint diversity was still available via TV-6. Unlike findings about other news stories, election stories appear to have little connection to viewers' experiences and values and deprive them of using familiar heuristics to make sense of the stories. For the public, the election story is a genre apart, framed by the same confusing template no matter what the office or region. Even TV-6, soon to be shuttered, broadcast its combative message using that template, thus extinguishing any opportunity for identifying genuine diversity and leaving the audience unable to distinguish between state and private channels, something they easily did for other types of stories. Election stories only cue other election stories. It is mainly younger, "post-Soviet" participants who bring an alternative frame to watching: norms, acquired through their education, by which election stories in a democracy ought to be constructed.