MOSCOW: The exposure of the venality of the Russian media by St
Petersburg-based PR agency Promaco, has been welcomed by the
International Public Relations Association (IPRA) following a merely
lukewarm approval from the Russian Public Relations Association.
The controversy began when Promaco offered 21 Moscow newspapers cash in
exchange for coverage of a store opening. Sixteen publications entered
into negotiations, with 13 running a story, only for Promaco to then
reveal that no store actually existed.
The IPRA condemned the practice of 'cash for editorial'. Its president
Alasdair Sutherland said: 'This is a world issue, not just a Russian
one', adding that 'as long as the practice of illicit paid-for editorial
continues ... the public can never have confidence in what they
Sutherland said that the IPRA is setting up an 'anti-zakazukha' (paid
advertising masquerading as news) committee, with a view to stamping out
the practice, while the Russian Anti-Monopoly Committee has held talks
with the Moscow Jounalists' Union.
Promaco has been accused of 'premeditated provocation' for inciting the
press to break Russian laws requiring the distinguishing of advertising
and editorial copy.
However Alexei Sinikov, president of Moscow's Image Contact PR agency,
and a senior member of the Russian arm of the IPRA, warned: 'It's
important for Westerners to understand that many people here do not yet
grasp the concept of a free press, and believe everything has still got
to be paid for.'