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RFE Launches Caucasus Television Program

On the set of ''Free Talk''
On the set of ''Free Talk''

RFE's new Russian-language television show brings together experts to discuss the region’s pertinent political and social issues.

Following the demise of the Soviet Union, the newly-formed countries in the Caucasus focused on building national media institutions, and media outlets largely abandoned Russian as a lingua franca. This greatly contributed to regional fragmentation, as there was no longer a media platform through which the different cultures could interface to discuss regional issues.

RFE/RL’s new television program "Free Talk" attempts to bridge this gap. The Russian-language show brings together journalists and experts for roundtable conversations on the region’s pertinent social and political issues.

"Free Talk" host Irina Lagunina of RFE/RL's Russian service explains: “After the fall, people were unwilling to use Russian as a common language because it was associated with Soviet times. 'Free Talk' aims to rebuild the old platform of the Russian language, but on a new basis of free media and free discussion. Only a program in Russian can reach a large audience in the region.”

A joint product of RFE/RL's Azerbaijani, Georgian, North Caucasus, and Russian Services, "Free Talk" broadcasts on the Georgian public broadcasting network PIK (First Caucasus News) every Saturday at 7:30 p.m. Tbilisi time. Via satellite the 30-minute broadcast also reaches audiences beyond the Caucasus, including in Ukraine, Belarus, the Russian Federation, Turkey and Iran.
Only a program in Russian can reach a large audience in the region.

In its short history - the first show aired on January 25 - "Free Talk" has covered issues ranging from the events in Egypt to the terrorist bombings in Moscow, as well as an in-depth discussion on the legacy of Imam Shamil, the leader of the anti-Russian resistance in the 19th Century Caucasian War.

The show also aims to be interactive and to connect to its audience via the likes of Skype, Facebook, and Twitter. “We want to hear from our audience and tailor our programming to their interests and the issues they care about,” says Lagunina.

Lagunina is optimistic about the program's potential for sucess. “When you start to discuss regional issues in the Caucasus, you immediately see how interconnected the whole region is: most events in one country influence developments in the whole neighbourhood. The more people understand each other the more capable they will be at solving problems together.”

Follow "Free Talk" on the web at RFE/RL or via the PIK website.

- Taylor Smoot