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RT and Russian viewpoint on major global events: public diplomacy, propaganda and post-truth

Raspopina, A. (2021). RT and Russian viewpoint on major global events: public diplomacy, propaganda and post-truth. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City, University of London)


This thesis studies the relationship between the content of the Russian state-funded international broadcaster RT (formerly Russia Today) and the official Russian foreign policy expressed in the state documents and the speeches of the Russian president Vladimir Putin. Using the concepts of public diplomacy, propaganda and post-truth as a theoretical basis, the thesis explores the ways in which the channel works as a Russian public diplomacy agent, its relationship to the concept of propaganda and its role in the modern post-truth communication environment. This thesis employs three methods: a quantitative content analysis of 1522 news articles, a textual analysis of 166 articles, and a document analysis of 19 foreign policy documents. The sample includes RT website coverage in English and in Russian of two wars – in Ukraine and in Syria – between 2014 and 2017. The choice of war coverage takes into consideration the importance of wartime communication for governments in terms of both public diplomacy and propaganda, and Russia’s different participation modes in the two conflicts studied (a direct one in Syria and a diplomatic and an unrecognized military one in Ukraine), which aims to put in context the way political communication works within a variety of environments in which modern conflicts occur.

In terms of public diplomacy this thesis demonstrates that RT is a crucial actor in the Russian public diplomacy as the themes within its content are aligned with the Russian foreign policy agenda. As a public diplomacy actor RT explains Russian polices and positions to its audiences. When it comes to propaganda the thesis demonstrates that the channel’s coverage employs devices and tools universally accredited to propaganda and matches the main themes and messages of the Soviet propaganda. With post-truth, the study demonstrates RT’s dual position as a partisan voice in the choir of partisan voices in the modern post-truth communication environment, and, on certain occasions, as a post-truth platform of its own.

The study’s large sample, its quantitative element and the inclusion of the RT coverage in Russian (this study argues it is aimed at a global Russian-speaking audience rather than an audience inside Russia) means that this thesis provides an unprecedented look into the structure of RT conflict coverage, thus filling the gap in research literature on Russian public diplomacy and international broadcasting and RT as both a political and a media actor. With post-truth the thesis provides a comprehensive overview of the recent scholarship on the topic, produces a working definition that can be used in further research, and contributes to scholarly understanding of the ways in which traditional media actors, public diplomacy actors and Russian actors in particular contribute to and benefit from the new post-truth communication environment.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
J Political Science
Departments: Doctoral Theses
Doctoral Theses > School of Arts and Social Sciences Doctoral Theses
School of Communication & Creativity > Journalism
School of Communication & Creativity > School of Communication & Creativity Doctoral Theses
[thumbnail of Raspopina thesis corrected April 2021.pdf] Text - Accepted Version
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