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The Hard Work Of Good TV

Oana Serafim, director of RFE/RL's Moldovan Service.
Oana Serafim, director of RFE/RL's Moldovan Service.

Oana Serafim explains how the Moldovan Service’s latest television project can bring Russian and Romanian speaking communities together.

As unrest continues to foment in Ukraine’s predominantly Russian-speaking east, RFE/RL has redoubled efforts to reach out to Russian-speaking audiences in Moldova, where a frozen conflict in the Transdniester region has left the country similarly fractured along linguistic and cultural lines.

“Clear and Simple,” a 10-minute television program launched in November and airing Monday through Friday on public television in both Russian and Romanian, aims to address concerns held by both communities. It is produced in a documentary style, featuring the perspectives of ordinary people rather than politicians and elites.

Though still in its infancy, “Clear and Simple,” a common phrase in Romanian, is resonating with audiences by exploring issues not otherwise covered by Moldovan media.

In one episode, journalists traveled to the country’s border with Romania to speak with villagers on both sides who, the program found, enjoy very little interconnectedness despite inhabiting the same physical and linguistic space. In another episode, the program interviewed young, Russian-speaking men from Transdniester who are in hiding to avoid being drafted into the breakaway region’s unrecognized army.

“While radio is still an important way for people to get information, TV definitely dominates the market,” said Moldovan Service Director Oana Serafim, speaking to the need to branch out to the new platform. “So TV is an important way to reach our public, but it’s an expensive one. It’s very easy to make bad television and very difficult to make good television.”

In addition to “Clear and Simple,” the Moldovan Service also produces a monthly current events roundtable for Russian-speaking radio audiences, as well as a weekly 30-minute radio program focusing on events in Transdniester, also in Russian and Romanian.

The service also continues to cultivate its audience in Romania, despite the closing of RFE/RL’s Romanian Service in 2008 following the country’s accession to the European Union.

Serafim and two former RFE/RL colleagues were recently awarded the prestigious National Order of Romania for Faithful Service by outgoing Romanian president Traian Basescu. The presidential honor recognizes their contribution, both past and present, to serving the public interest in the region.

“In Moldova people live to work, and many of them work in Romania, a country that has been the main advocate for Moldova’s integration in the European Union,” said Serafim, commenting on her award. “RFE/RL was somehow in the president’s mind before he left office. Not just for what was done before 1989, but for its continuous role in the region.”

--Emily Thompson