CRI gets new Siberian partner

China Radio International (CRI) have signed an agreement to have their content broadcast through a regional network of radio stations in Siberia, reports Justrecently channelling CRI themselves. Their new Russian partner, MKR Media, is led by Ivan Polyakov, an Omsk-based businessman who chairs the Russia-Hong Kong Business Association and vice-chairs the Russian-Chinese Business Council (Российско-Китайский Деловой Совет, 俄中双边企业家理事会).

Cooperation between Chinese and Russian media organisations has intensified during 2015, and plans are for it to intensify even more during the next two years, named the “Years of Russian and Chinese Media”. Case in point: the Sino-Russian Media Forum last June in St Petersburg, whose (Chinese) motto was “Joining forces to tell the two countries’ story well” (sounds better in Chinese: 合力讲好两国故事), an elaboration on Xi Jinping’s ‘tell-well‘ catchphrase. Last month, Boris Gryzlov, former Duma speaker and a senior figure in Russia’s ruling party, suggested that the two countries should create an international news agency “tasked with conveying to a broad audience current information matching Moscow and Beijing’s interests.”

CRI has surely plenty to learn from its Russian counterparts. Outlets such as RT and Sputnik News have been, shall we say, more successful in entering the global media ecosystem than CRI’s own network of ‘borrowed boats‘.

CRI’s new Siberian partner, MKR Media, was established last year as the media branch of MKR, one of the largest companies in Omsk oblast. It controls regional TV and radio stations, including Radio Siberia (Радио Сибирь), the sender that has just partnered with CRI to broadcast China-related content and help promote CRI’s “Nihao China” («Здравствуй, Китай» 你好,中国) project. Radio Siberia’s stations cover most of the populated area of the Siberian Federal District, from Tomsk to Chita.

MKR (ОАО «Межгосударственная корпорация развития» or Interstate Corporation for Development) was created with the goal of “developing cooperation in science, industry and high technology between CSTO [aka ‘Tashkent Pact’] countries”. Here’s some information in English: Sputnik on their anti-wiretap system, RT on them sponsoring a Faberge egg exhibition in China, and indeed their own English website. In 2014 MKR bought a majority stake in a company behind the project to build a new airport at Fyodorovka near Omsk, a project now all but dormant.

MKR is (or was until recently) majority-owned by Relero aka the Popov Radio Factory in Omsk (Радиозавод им. А.С. Попова), established in 1948. The Popov Radio Factory is mainly a defence contractor whose products include telecommunication equipment (most recently in use in Russian bases in Abkhazia) and drones (such as the the Iskatel Искатель or ‘seeker’).

Ivan Polyakov led the Popov Radio Factory for years, before handing the reins to his sister a few months ago. He remains at MKR’s helm. Some of his recent activities, including the acquisition of company behind the airport project, the foray into the media industry and indeed the increased participation in contacts with China, have been attributed by local observers to his political ambitions (specifically plans to become mayor of Omsk).