Evgeny Popov is the co-host of "60 Minut,” a Russian political TV talk show. After appearing on his show four times, I asked him to describe the show in his own words.
Do you consider your show a news show, or is it political theater?
This is an inappropriate question, given that you are on with us. “60 Minut” is “infotalk” — breaking news plus, at the same time, discussion. As far as I can understand, this is a new kind of television. Imagine that over the course of an hour you get a package of the most important news and an analysis of current events.
All of this is accompanied by live eyewitness accounts, reports, a lot of video images, as well as a visualization on the big screen and the interactive floor. Is this a show? Of course not. Especially not theater. The events that we discuss are real. The experts are often the ones who make the important decisions. We are not entertaining people. We are informing them. We are explaining things to them.
Is there an American TV show or news show that you particularly like, or that you think has influenced this show?
I worked in New York for six years and saw everything there is to see about your television networks. In the United States, without a doubt, television is super-professional. But I don’t think that the “60 Minut” Olga and I have created is the fruit of my American experience. This is an utterly Russian program, from the first to the last second. As far as programs that I appreciate professionally are concerned, then of course there’s CBS News with Scott Pelley. He is a reporter and a host of the highest class. Classic news, a classic delivery, classic television. I still watch it to this day. [Wolf] Blitzer and his “Situation Room” is closest to me in professional spirit. I hosted a similar program on our sister station, the round-the-clock station Rossiya-24. The main themes of the day and a discussion of each of the themes with an expert. It is very interesting, when the host of the show is where events are taking place. And in this sense, “60 Minut” is also an innovator.
[The news program recently traveled to the Donbas region of separatist eastern Ukraine.] There were two studios. I flew to Donetsk, where I shot reports for the show and went live with militia commanders, people who had been wounded by the bombardment by the Ukrainian Army, the mayor of Gorlovka, who showed me the fragments of a projectile that was fired at a residential area of the city. In Moscow, Russian political analysts, philosophers and the Moscow bureau chief of the Ukrainian news agency discussed what they’d seen. Many of our viewers called this the best program of “60 Minut.” We also liked it. Two studios, two countries, the point of view of Russia, the, Ukraine and Western countries. What else do you need to study a developing event from all sides?
What is the point of having an American reporter on air with you?
Your participation, as with that of any American or European journalist, it’s a point of view. An opinion. An expert analysis. There are political analysts, politicians. We also invite them. But in the past several years, there has been a special demand for journalists, no matter who they are, no matter where they have worked. For our viewers, everything that’s going on is so sensitive.
Well, what about the accusations of your president that the media staged a campaign of harassment against him? Fabricated the results of opinion polls. Lied. Openly sided with one of the candidates. Of course, we want to ask you why you are against the American people’s choice.
And what’s more, it turns out the United States has fouled its own elections. It’s curious. And then we recall [Ronald] Reagan’s city upon a hill, [Barack] Obama and American exceptionalism, and all the other stuff the U.S. establishment flaunted. And it raises the logical question: Why does the U.S. try to teach everyone else democracy and whatever else? … In general I prefer Howard Zinn and his “A People’s History of the United States” to a mythical city upon a hill.
Do you think that Russian viewers are more likely to make up their minds about an issue based on what they see on your show or on a regular news program?
A Russian viewer has no fewer sources of information, and perhaps even more and richer, than in the U.S. Our viewers are smart. They choose for themselves. [The nightly news and news of the week programs on the Rossiya-1 channel] without a doubt are the main sources of information on our station. We are proud to be a part of that.